The Democratic National Committee has requested that a federal judge block efforts by the Republican National Committee to coordinate with Donald Trump as he calls for poll watchers amid claims the election is “rigged” against him. That tactic, the DNC alleges, violates a more than 30-year-old legal agreement meant to keep GOP operatives in line at the polls. Mr. Trump has said Hillary Clinton will defeat him only if voter fraud and other illicit activity at polling places takes place, catapulting the issue of ballot security issues to national attention. While evidence to support those arguments is largely lacking, 43 percent of Trump’s pledged voters say they’ll believe the Republican candidate was cheated out of the election if he loses, according to a Wednesday poll from USA Today/Suffolk University. Some fear that claims of a “rigged election” may spur overzealous Trump supporters to engage in activities that could constitute illegal voter intimidation tactics. Now, Democrats are saying that GOP involvement in any such tactics could violate a 1982 consent decree that bars Republicans from using strategies that intimidate minority voters, and Republicans are trying to steer clear of Trump’s assertions.
“Here, the RNC is trying to distance itself as far as it can from Trump’s specific calls for poll watching,” Richard Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine tells The Christian Science Monitor. “The legal questions is whether Trump has crossed the line. I think there’s a good argument that he has.”
The suit, filed Wednesday in a federal court in New Jersey, alleges that the GOP has violated the decree “by supporting and enabling the efforts of the Republican candidate for President, Donald J. Trump, as well as his campaign and advisors, to intimidate and discourage minority voters from voting in the 2016 Presidential Election.”
The long-standing decree is slated to expire next December, but any violation on the part of Republicans could result in an eight-year extension of the restrictions. Republicans have argued that the decree is “antiquated” and used by Democrats for their own favor, but it has withstood test in the courts. “Even though the decree started in the ’80s, the parties fought over it in the 2000s,” Dr. Hasen says. “The RNC’s activities continued to merit the imposition of the decree. This is not just based on conduct from the 1980s.”