For Donald Trump, questioning whether the campaign will be “rigged” has become a campaign stump mantra. For Republican National Committee lawyers, it’s become a different kind of worry. Trump has repeatedly invited his followers to watch polling areas. “Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times,” he said at a rally in Pennsylvania this summer. Now, a federal judge wants to hear more. A hearing is scheduled for Friday in New Jersey, and the RNC has been directed to provide information detailing “any efforts regarding poll watching or poll observation.” The RNC is forbidden from engaging in any ballot security activities that might deter qualified voters from voting because of a decades old consent decree that has been modified over the years and is set to expire at the end of 2017.
The consent decree arose in the early 1980s after the RNC was accused of intimidating registered voters in predominately African-American precincts in New Jersey. The RNC allegedly enlisted the help of off-duty police officers to intimidate voters by standing at polling places with “National Ballot Security Task Force” armbands. To settle the lawsuit, the RNC entered into the agreement.
Democratic lawyers have already gone to court in New Jersey asking that the judge extend the consent decree for several more years arguing that the RNC has enabled Trump’s efforts to “intimidate and discourage minority voters” from voting.