The lawsuits are piling up. Over the last two weeks, the Democratic and Republican parties have filed half a dozen warring complaints about poll monitoring. Democrats allege Republicans are coordinating widespread voter-intimidation efforts. Republicans in at least one state have argued that poll watching should be expanded, not limited. All sides are seeking emergency relief, calling on judges to consider their cases in the next seven days before the election. While both parties fight for their lives life in states like New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, they’re now having to battle each other in court as well. On their face, these cases may seem like a form of legal subterfuge—attempts to distract the other party and float damaging allegations days before the election. The cases focus on just a few hundred volunteers in a handful of states: The Arizona Democratic Party said 93 people are signed up to conduct “exit polling” with Stop the Steal, a voter-fraud-related super PAC, and the Ohio Democratic Party said “dozens” have volunteered for the same effort in their state.
Taken together, though, these cases speak to one of the most important functions of democracy: the ability to vote, free of intimidation and coercion, and to ensure that others have the same right. At many points in American history, poll monitoring has been used to dissuade voters—especially black voters—from exercising their right of enfranchisement. The Supreme Court argued in 2013 that “our country has changed,” striking down the part of the Voting Rights Act that determines which parts of the country are overseen by strict federal supervision. But the recent allegations suggest voter intimidation is still happening all over the country.
The specific details from each case are striking. Last week, the Democratic National Committee filed a complaint against the Republican National Committee, arguing that the RNC violated a 1987 legal agreement which prohibits either party from organizing volunteers to challenge voters’ eligibility at polling stations. Democrats also argue that the RNC is providing resources and coordinating with the Trump campaign on poll-monitoring efforts, per statements from Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. According to the filing, “the Trump campaign [recently] distributed talking points to Republican Party surrogates directing that they ‘must make points on rigged system,’ and encouraging them to claim there has been ‘an increase in unlawful voting by illegal immigrants.’”
On Monday, a federal judge in New Jersey ordered the RNC to turn over all communications with the Trump campaign related to poll watching, voter fraud, or “ballot security.” The judge specifically requested testimony and documents related to Conway and two RNC officials—Rob Gleason in Pennsylvania and Ronna Romney McDaniel in Michigan—who have allegedly recruited poll watchers and organized “massive, statewide anti-voter fraud efforts.” All of this has to be gathered up in just three days.