After more than three decades, Republicans are free of a federal court consent decree that sharply limited the Republican National Committee’s ability to challenge voters’ qualifications and target the kind of fraud President Donald Trump has alleged affected the 2016 presidential race. Newark-based U.S. District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez ruled in an order released Tuesday that the longstanding decree ended Dec. 1 and will not be extended. The decree, which dated to 1982, arose from a Democratic National Committee lawsuit charging the RNC with seeking to discourage African-Americans from voting through targeted mailings warning about penalties for violating election laws and by posting armed, off-duty law enforcement officers at the polls in minority neighborhoods.
To extend the decree, the DNC needed to show that the RNC violated the terms of the pact. Democrats pointed to a series of incidents during the 2016 election in which they alleged people who claimed or appeared to be working for the RNC were engaged in poll watching. A November 2016 POLITICO report describing RNC spokesman Sean Spicer’s Election Day activities led the judge to order Spicer to submit to a deposition.
Vazquez, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, said in his ruling that despite the various claims, the Democrats had not shown any violation “by a preponderance of the evidence.”