The most turbulent and norm-breaking presidential election of a lifetime has led to an extraordinary spectacle in the United States over the past three days: armed protesters gathering nightly outside offices where workers are counting the votes that will decide who wins the White House. Some carry shotguns. Some have handguns. Often, they carry black, military-style semiautomatic rifles. The protesters with weapons are a small minority of the demonstrators. There have been no reports of anyone getting shot, and the laws in Arizona, Nevada and Michigan — where guns have been seen outside vote-tabulation centers in recent days — allow people to openly carry firearms in public. But in a nation increasingly inured to weapons at rallies – most often carried by right-wing demonstrators, though also sometimes by left-wing protesters – experts warn that the guns create a dangerous situation that could be seen as intimidation or tip easily into violence. “The more we see, the more people see it as a normal reaction – even though it’s not. There’s nothing normal about it,” said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a professor at American University who studies extremism. “The potential for violence becomes normalized.”
National: So Far, Trump’s “Army” of Poll Watchers Looks More Like a Small Platoon | Jessica Huseman/ProPublica
Donald Trump Jr. looked straight into a camera at the end of September as triumphant music rose in a crescendo. “The radical left are laying the groundwork to steal this election from my father,” he said. “We cannot let that happen. We need every able-bodied man and woman to join the army for Trump’s election security operation.” It was an echo of what his father, President Donald Trump, has said in both of his presidential campaigns. At a September campaign rally in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the president encouraged his audience to be poll watchers. “Watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing they do,” he said. “Because this is important.” But the poll-watching army that the Trumps have tried to rally hasn’t materialized. Although there’s no official data, election officials across the country say that they have seen relatively few Republican poll watchers during early voting, and that at times Democratic poll watchers have outnumbered the GOP’s. In Colorado and Nevada, where the Trump campaign was particularly active in recruiting poll watchers, its efforts largely petered out.
Wisconsin officials have been preparing to respond to problems on Election Day — but don’t expect there to be any | Laura Schulte Alison Dirr and Sarah Volpenhein/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
On the eve of Tuesday’s election, state and local officials sought to assure residents that the voting process is safe and secure — and drive home the message that quick results should not be expected. During a call hosted by the Voter Protection Program on Monday, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said so far with early in-person voting and absentee ballots arriving, there have been few issues. He said there has been a lot of communication with law enforcement departments on how to handle situations of intimidation or attempts to make polling places unsafe. “In Wisconsin, if you use force or threaten to use force to prevent someone from voting, or put somebody in a state of duress to prevent them from voting, that’s a felony and anybody who commits that crime should be prepared to be investigated and spend time behind bars,” Kaul said. There is no information leading officials to believe that there are specific physical threats against polling sites, Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe said during a virtual news conference Monday. And officials do not have evidence of disinformation or misinformation campaigns specifically targeting Wisconsin, she said.
Ahead of Election, Police Prepare for Violence and Disruption | Neil MacFarquhar and Shaila Dewan/The New York Times
The Las Vegas Police had a quandary. They were on high alert for election-related threats, but when long lines of voters began snaking down streets and around parking lots two weeks ago, they feared that stationing patrol cars outside polling stations might drive people away. “How do you make people feel safe in that environment without creating an overt police presence — that is a challenge for all police departments,” said Andrew Walsh, deputy chief in the Homeland Security division of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. They decided that frequent but random patrols to look for potential trouble was the better choice. Striking that balance is at the root of many of the challenges facing law enforcement agencies nationwide as they prepare for an election rife with uncertainties. The largest departments have run practice drills on scenarios including violent clashes between Biden and Trump supporters, the sudden appearance of an armed paramilitary group, a cyberattack or a bomb. “This is such a polarized environment and a lot of people are angry,” said John D. Cohen, a former Homeland Security counterterrorism coordinator with 34 years experience in law enforcement. “I have never seen a threat environment as dynamic, complex and dangerous as the one we are in right now.” Police in Las Vegas — like their counterparts in New York, Detroit, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and in other cities all across the country — are grappling with deploying significantly more officers to counteract any disturbances without scaring voters away.
National: How State and Local Officials Plan to Prevent Election Violence | Alan Greenblatt/Governing
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to be prepared for any imaginable scenario. Running an election with record turnout during a pandemic was always going to be a challenge, but she also has to take seriously the possibility of violence and voter intimidation. She hopes the election and its aftermath will be peaceful, but she knows she can’t count on it. “Given what we’ve experienced over the course of the spring and the summer, we can’t presume that what will happen on election night or the days before, and certainly not the days after are going to be peaceful,” she said. Toward that end, Lightfoot ran an “all hazards drill,” with emergency management, law enforcement and election officials trying to game out every possible thing that could go wrong – unrest, violence, storms, COVID-19 outbreaks, arson. “We really threw in the kitchen sink,” she said. “If you were pitching this to a Hollywood producer, they’d say, no way this could happen.” That same level of concern and preparedness is evident all over the country. State and local officials are having to assume things might turn grim. They’re working collaboratively to be sure any incidents can be addressed quickly. “There’s a long history of intimidation and violence associated with elections,” said Christopher Witko, a political scientist at Penn State University. The Republican Party was barred nationally for nearly four decades from recruiting election observers to challenge voters’ credentials aggressively. The federal consent decree limiting the party’s activities expired in 2018, making this the first national election to be conducted without such restrictions.
National: With Election Day looming, an anxious nation hears rumblings of violence | Marc Fisher/The Washington Post
This weekend, several dozen people will arrive at secret locations in West Virginia and Colorado to ride out the election and its aftermath. If Tuesday’s vote sparks unrest, Drew Miller’s customers at Fortitude Ranch will be secure behind walls patrolled by armed guards. “Could the election devolve into civil war? Unlikely,” mused Miller, the founder of a budding network of members-only survivalist camps. “But look at World War I: Some worthless, low-level archduke gets assassinated and things escalate out of control. I’ve got people who are concerned that all it would take is a close election and some cheating.” In Portland, Ore., where a right-wing armed group plans to show up at ballot drop-off sites on Tuesday with weapons in plain view, some extreme left-wing organizers are preparing be there as well. “The right is not going to give up their power unless they feel threatened,” said Olivia Katbi Smith, a co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America in Portland. “People are opening up to the idea that a riot is the language of the unheard. Property destruction is not violence.” On the eve of a presidential election fraught with tension, warning flares are bursting across American skies. From federal and local law enforcement to analysts who track radical groups, concern is high about the possibility that violence could erupt, especially if the vote count drags on for days without a clear winner.
Michigan clerks have ‘deep concern’ about violence, COVID-19 at polls | Dave Boucher Christina Hall/Detroit Free Press
It’s not the surge in absentee ballots, or even the global pandemic that have Alpena City Clerk Anna Soik most concerned heading into Election Day. The clerk of the roughly 10,000-person city that rests on the shores of Lake Huron in northern Michigan is instead worried about what happens if someone fired up about the election brings a gun to a polling place. “I’m not going to lie, I am concerned about it. And we may possibly even have a police presence,” Soik said. “Because I think right now, in the time that we’re in, everybody is kind of on edge, and you just don’t know how someone is going to react, so we just need to be prepared for that.” Michigan election officials understand they face unprecedented challenges on Tuesday. They know someone may contract the coronavirus on Election Day, or that a woman or man with a gun may disrupt voting somewhere. They know a voting populace desperate for results will question why we do not know who won within minutes of polls closing. They are experts on absentee voting, ballot tabulation and poll worker training. They are not epidemiologists. They are not law enforcement officers.
New Hampshire voters can bring guns to polling stations | New Hampshire | Christian Wade/The Center Square
When voters go to the polls in New Hampshire in Tuesday’s presidential election, they’ll be allowed to take firearms with them. New Hampshire is one of a handful of “open carry” states where firearm owners can possess a gun in plain view, without any special permit. The issue of guns in polling stations comes up every election cycle, but has been elevated this year amid heightened concerns about voter intimidation and violence ahead of a rancorous election. President Donald Trump, who is seeking another term, has been accused of stoking those fears with calls for his supporters to act as election “monitors” to check for fraud in the voting process. In a joint letter to local election officials on Thursday, New Hampshire’s Secretary of State William Gardner and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald clarified that the state doesn’t have the authority to prevent people from carrying firearms into polling stations, even if they are located inside schools. “There are no state election laws governing carrying of a firearm in a polling place,” the officials wrote. “Voters should not be prevented from voting based on possession of a firearm.” While a 1990 federal law prohibits firearms from being brought into schools, the officials noted they cannot prevent licensed carriers from entering school buildings.
Gary Kauffman says he does not scare easily. So when men waving President Donald Trump flags drive by his house in downtown Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he stands on his front steps and waves a banner for Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. “Sometimes I yell at them. They yell back at me,” says Kauffman, 54. Still, Kauffman is keeping a closer eye on who they are and what they’re carrying as Election Day approaches. Tension has been rising in his town, known best as hallowed ground of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle. Recently, it’s become a hot spot of angry confrontations between Trump supporters and liberal protesters. Kauffman has seen some of the Trump supporters carrying weapons. “If there’s guns, I’m a bit more cautious,” he said on Monday. Americans aren’t accustomed to worrying about violence or safety ahead of an election. It’s a luxury afforded by years of largely peaceful voting, a recent history of fairly orderly displays of democracy. But after months filled with disease, disruption and unrest, Americans are worried that Election Day could become a flashpoint.
Full Article: Anxiety 2020: Voters worry about safety at the polls
In 1981, the Republican National Committee sent hundreds of armed, off-duty police officers to the polls in the state of New Jersey. Dressed in official-looking “National Ballot Security Task Force” armbands, they demanded voter registration cards from people waiting in line in heavily Black and Hispanic districts, turning some voters away and intimidating others into not voting at all. As my colleague Clare Malone has written, the whole thing was illegal. After a lawsuit, it led to a 37-year-long ban preventing the RNC from organizing poll watching efforts. This will be the first presidential election without the ban in place. It is also a presidential election where the incumbent has cast doubt on the trustworthiness of the election, toyed repeatedly with the idea of not giving up office and recruited thousands of poll watchers. It is also a presidential election where far-right militias and other supporters of the president have discussed showing up, armed, at polling sites. But despite that tension, neither experts in election law nor experts in militia and armed radical groups believe we are likely to see a repeat of what happened in New Jersey nearly four decades ago. Why? Partly, it’s because laws heavily restrict what poll watchers can do and how they can do it. And partly, experts told me, it’s because the actual job of poll watching is unlikely to appeal to the groups and individuals whose presence would be most dangerous.
Minnesota: At behest of Trump campaign official, Minneapolis police union calls for retired officers to act as ‘eyes and ears’ on Election Day | Libor Jany/Minneapolid Star Tribune
The Minneapolis police union put out a call this week for retired officers to help serve as “eyes and ears” at polling sites in “problem” areas across the city on Election Day, at the request of an attorney for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. The request was made by William Willingham, whose e-mail signature identifies him as a senior legal adviser and director of Election Day operations for the Trump campaign. In an e-mail Wednesday morning to Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll, Willingham asked the union president about recruiting 20 to 30 former officers to serve as “poll challengers” to work either a four- or eight-hour shift in a “problem area.” “Poll Challengers do not ‘stop’ people, per se, but act as our eyes and ears in the field and call our hotline to document fraud,” the e-mail read. “We don’t necessarily want our Poll Challengers to look intimidating, they cannot carry a weapon in the polls due to state law. … We just want people who won’t be afraid in rough neighborhoods or intimidating situations.” Kroll then passed on the request to federation members, saying “Please share, and e-mail me if you are willing to assist,” according to a copy obtained by the Star Tribune.
Michigan: ’This is a voting right case’: Election officials appeal court ruling allowing guns at polls | Justin P. Hicks/MLive.com
Michigan’s attorney general and secretary of state are appealing a recent court ruling that struck down a ban on openly carrying firearms at all polling locations on election day. Dana Nessel and Jocelyn Benson submitted their appeal on Wednesday, Oct. 28, with an expedited relief request for 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29. In the brief, they argued that the ban on open carry of firearms on Nov. 3 was to protect every Michigander’s right to vote. “Make no mistake. This is a voting rights case,” reads the opening line of the state’s brief to the Michigan Court of Appeals. On Oct. 16, Benson issued a directive instructing local clerks to ban the open carry of guns at all polling places on Nov. 3. The purpose of the ban, she said, was to protect voters from intimidation. But a group of Michigan gun groups sued to invalidate it. On Tuesday, Michigan Court of Claims Chief Judge Christopher Murray granted a preliminary injunction, overturning the ban and allowing open carry at most polling locations.
National: Jeering sign-wavers. Caravans of honking trucks. Voter intimidation or free speech? | Abigail Hauslohner/The Washington Post
Jeering sign-wavers, caravans of honking trucks flying Trump 2020 flags, and charged political rhetoric — delivered via bullhorn at people waiting in line at polling sites — have become the increasingly common backdrop to early voting across the country, particularly in swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania. Some of the loud displays, often from supporters of President Trump and particularly frustrating to Democrats, have prompted local law enforcement agencies to station officers near polling places to keep the peace. In some locations, they have sparked allegations of voter intimidation and fears of tinderbox confrontations on the cusp of escalation in the run-up to Election Day next week. “I do think activities like that can be intimidating, and especially an activity where we have seen violence associated with Trump caravans,” said Lindsay Schubiner, the program director at the Western States Center, a progressive nonprofit focused on far-right extremism. The center is based in Portland, Ore., where a Trump supporter was killed on a public street in August when a self-described antifa adherent shot him after a Trump caravan spilled into a crowd of racial justice protesters.
National: U.S. Homeland Security agency faulted for election planning around potential violence | Raphael Satter and Christopher Bing/Reuters
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s watchdog body said on Tuesday that officials at its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency had not adequately planned for potential violence at polling places and vote counting stations. The watchdog’s report, issued with a week to go before the Nov. 3, comes as the threat of violence has crept up the national agenda. Recent Reuters reporting has highlighted how everyone from retailers (here to social media companies here) has begun making contingency plans should the election turn chaotic or violent. The shift in attention comes after years of election-related anxiety revolving around the integrity of vote tallying machines and electronic poll books or the threat of foreign disinformation carried by social media. The DHS Office of the Inspector General noted that the department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency – the DHS arm generally responsible for protecting U.S. infrastructure from digital and physical threats – offers an array of cybersecurity support to state and local governments.
Michigan judge halts Secretary of State Benson’s ban on open carry of guns at polling places | Beth LeBlanc/The Detroit Times
Michigan Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday that effectively halts Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s directive banning the open carry of guns near polling locations on Election Day. Attorney General Dana Nessel announced almost immediately after the decision was issued that her office would appeal to the Court of Appeals “as this issue is of significant public interest and importance to our election process.” The edict by Benson “smacks of an attempt at legislation” and lacks public input instead of following the regular rule-making process, Murray said during a Tuesday emergency hearing. Further, the state already has a law prohibiting voter intimidation, said Murray, an appointee of Republican former Gov. John Engler. “The Legislature has said: Here are the places you cannot carry a weapon,” Murray said during the hearing. “The secretary has expanded that. And so how is that in accordance with state law?”
National: Police Struggle to Protect Voters and Avoid Intimidation at Polls | Joe Barrett and Zusha Elinson/Wall Street Journal
States and cities across the U.S. are wrestling with a delicate task as they gear up for the possibility of violence on Election Day: how to keep voters safe without deploying a police presence that could intimidate some voters. So far, authorities have taken different approaches. Michigan has moved to ban firearms at the polls after armed protests took place at the state capitol. Police in New York City plan to boost their presence in and around polling sites. While a number of states ban police at the polls unless they are asked to help with a particular situation by election officials, some are encouraging officers to be nearby, but not at, election sites. The concern among law-enforcement officials is that efforts to protect voters put them in the position of policing the polls, a practice that historically has been discouraged or even forbidden by law. “The last thing we want are the police in the polling stations,” said Robert Stevenson, executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.
National Cities Gird for Election Day Unrest | Danielle Moran , Laura Bliss , and Sarah Holder/Bloomberg
Fears of voter intimidation and civil unrest have prompted authorities in large urban centers to announce unprecedented steps meant to avoid clashes on Election Day and beyond.Chicago, Philadelphia and New York are among cities that have revealed plans to prevent violence on Nov. 3, when election observers worry polling sites could be targeted, or in the weeks that follow if historic levels of mail-in ballots preclude the declaration of an immediate winner. What’s less known is how smaller communities are preparing, even those that have seen some of the most intense violence by armed vigilantes during racial justice demonstrations — either because authorities have made no special preparations or don’t want to show their hand. Unfounded assertions of fraud by President Donald Trump and his supporters had raised the specter of such unrest even before 14 men were recently charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and overthrow the state’s government. “We have concerns that these same groups might decide that they need to take it upon themselves to go to polls and protect against a fraudulent or rigged election,” said Mary McCord, legal director of Georgetown University’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, at a press conference earlier this month. McCord has been advising cities, state attorneys general, and law enforcement about laws criminalizing private militia activity and how to enforce them.
Mississippi: Voting while Black: The hurdles have changed, but never gone away | Tim Sullivan/Associated Press
The old civil rights worker was sure the struggle would be over by now.He’d fought so hard back in the ’60s. He’d seen the wreckage of burned churches, and the injuries of people who had been beaten. He’d seen men in white hoods. At its worst, he’d mourned three young men who were fighting for Black Mississippians to gain the right to vote, and who were kidnapped and executed on a country road just north of here. But Charles Johnson, sitting inside the neat brick church in Meridian where he’s been pastor for over 60 years, worries that Mississippi is drifting into its past. “I would never have thought we’d be where we’re at now, with Blacks still fighting for the vote,” said Johnson, 83, who was close to two of the murdered men. “I would have never believed it.” The opposition to Black votes in Mississippi has changed since the 1960s, but it hasn’t ended. There are no poll taxes anymore, no tests on the state constitution. But on the eve of the most divisive presidential election in decades, voters face obstacles such as state-mandated ID laws that mostly affect poor and minority communities and the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of former prisoners. And despite Mississippi having the largest percentage of Black people of any state in the nation, a Black person hasn’t been elected to statewide office in 130 years.
Florida Republicans’ request last month for police and the FBI to investigate a program to pay off felons’ court fees and fines hasn’t amounted to criminal charges or a formal probe.But it has created a “chilling effect” and sparked threats from white supremacists, according to Desmond Meade, executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which has raised tens of millions of dollars to pay off court fees and fines for felons over the last 18 months. Meade said Friday he’s hired lawyers and security experts to combat threats from people who now believe he and his organization are working to undermine President Donald Trump’s reelection. “White supremacist groups were encouraging people to go to our website and do nefarious things and trying to sabotage the site,” Meade said. He’s now trying to remind everyone that his organization is nonpartisan. In 2018, Meade and his group led the effort to overturn the state’s 150-year-old ban on felon voting, which was successful because it had support from both Republicans and Democrats. He has largely stayed out of the litigation over a law Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last year requiring felons to pay off all court fees, fines and restitution to victims before being allowed to vote.
Michigan; Gun groups sue Secretary of State for banning open carry at polls on Election Day | Taylor DesOrmeau/MLive
A trio of Michigan gun rights groups are suing Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson over her directive for local clerks to prohibit the open carry of firearms at the polls on Election Day.While Benson argues the ban is within her powers to make elections safe, the lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims argues it forces people to choose between their right to vote and their right to bear arms.“One must choose one right or the other, but not both,” plaintiffs argue in the lawsuit, if the ban stands. … Benson sent guidance on her directive to all clerk’s offices on Oct. 16. As Michigan’s chief election officer, state law says Benson has supervisory control over elections. Benson also cites MCL 168.31, saying she has the authority to issue policy directives for polling places. A separate law prohibits bribing, influencing, deterring or interrupting people from voting. None of the laws mention guns. “We want to recognize that the threat of open carrying of firearms can create a threatening environment through both visual and other ways,” Benson said earlier this week. Some law enforcement agencies have said they won’t enforce the directive in their polling places. Michigan State Police will enforce the ban in places where law enforcement can’t or won’t enforce it, Benson said.
Minnesota Attorney General Ellison wins assurance Atlas Aegis will not recruit or provide private security for elections | Red Lake Nation News
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced today that his office has won a written assurance from Tennessee-based security company Atlas Aegis that it is not recruiting and will not recruit or provide private security at or near polling places in Minnesota in conjunction with the November 3 election. The company admits that its statements that it was doing so are incorrect. Attorney General Ellison announced on October 20 that his office had launched an investigation into Atlas Aegis.As part of the settlement, Atlas Aegis agrees not to provide any security services in Minnesota around the November 3 election; not to intimidate any voters in Minnesota; and to communicate through its channels that it was wrong to suggest it was recruiting security for “protection of election polls” in Minnesota. “Minnesotans should expect that our elections will run as safely, smoothly, and securely as they always have. One of the reasons is that my office and our partners are actively enforcing our laws against threatening, frightening, or intimidating voters,” Attorney General Ellison said. “I’m holding Atlas Aegis to account for their misstatements about recruiting security for polling places in Minnesota that potentially frightened Minnesota voters. They won’t be doing it again and will not be anywhere in Minnesota before, during, or after Election Day.”
New Hampshire: Guns Will Be Allowed In Most Polling Places, But ‘Voter Intimidation Will Not Be Tolerated’ | Casey cDerott/New Hampshire Public Radio
The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office says state and local authorities can’t prevent people from bringing guns into polling places, even those located in school buildings — but they will be on alert to respond to anyone, armed or otherwise, who is interfering with someone else’s ability to vote. “We are not able to use any of our New Hampshire election laws to prohibit a voter from entering to vote if they have a firearm, and that includes if the polling place is a school,” Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Chong Yen, who leads the state’s Election Law Unit, during a call with local clerks earlier this week. This policy isn’t new, and state officials similarly said ahead of the 2016 elections that voters could not be barred from entering polling places because they’re carrying a gun. Some voters and pollworkers have voiced anxiety about firearms around polling places on Nov. 3, particularly after President Trump called on supporters “to go into the polls and watch very carefully.” New Hampshire is an “open carry” state, meaning gun owners can openly carry a loaded firearm without a license or permit. Since 2017, the state has also allowed any lawful gun owner to carry a concealed weapon. Officials in at least one other state, Michigan, recently announced plans to ban people from openly carrying firearms at polling places on Nov. 3, though the state is now facing a lawsuit over that policy.
Albuquerque resident Eleanor Chavez was driving by the 98th and Central early voting site on Saturday, Oct. 17 when she passed a caravan of flag-waving Trump supporters who drove through the parking lot. Hours later, she went back and saw a man with a Trump flag on the back of his truck yelling at voters before the police arrived. “Who does that? I’ve been voting for a hundred million years, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” Chavez said. Chavez said she was planning to vote that day but decided to wait because of the activity she observed, which she called “threatening.”According to an Albuquerque Police Department report, officers responded to a call about the same man Chavez observed. The presiding judge on site told an officer that she was afraid he was going to “shoot up” voters.Officers issued a criminal trespass notice against the man, who was identified in the police report as Isidro Casarez. The notice was issued not because Casarez intimidated voters, but because he was “acting disorderly” in the parking lot of a business. He had been parked in front of a T-Mobile store in the same shopping center as the polling site and refused to leave when an employee asked him to.The Bernalillo County district attorney’s office is investigating the Trump caravan incident, spokesperson Brandale Mills-Cox said.New Mexico election officials and local nonprofit organizations are taking a number of steps — like training hundreds of poll watchers and setting up a legal hotline — to prepare for the potential of more incidents like that of Oct. 17.
‘A lot of chaos’: Trump’s rhetoric, a global pandemic and a tsunami of lawsuits complicate 2020 election | Kristine Phillips/USA Today
By Election Night of 1876, Democratic presidential candidate Samuel Tilden was just one electoral vote away from victory. But returns from four states that could still hand the presidency to his Republican opponent, Rutherford B. Hayes, were in question. Both candidates declared victory, and the dispute dragged on for months. Threats of a civil war loomed. Voter fraud and intimidation ran rampant. Congress was forced to create an electoral commission that would decide the presidency. Voting along party lines, it declared Hayes the winner by just one electoral vote. By the time the country finally had a president, inauguration was just two days away.”It was a violent time,” said Franita Tolson, an election law expert from the University of Southern California. More than 140 years later, the looming chaos of the 2020 presidential race – marred by threats both at home and abroad – harkens back to the ugliest, most antagonistic presidential election in U.S. history.
Michigan Secretary of State faces lawsuits over open carry ban at polls | Dave Boucher and Paul Egan/Detroit Free Press
Two lawsuits were filed Thursday seeking to nullify Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s recent directive to ban the open carry of guns at polling places and other sites on Election Day. Both suits were filed in the Michigan Court of Claims.One suit was filed by gun rights activist Thomas Lambert and three nonprofit organizations: Michigan Open Carry Inc., Michigan Gun Owners and the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners. The other suit was filed by Robert Davis, a Wayne County activist and serial litigator. Recently, Benson sent a directive to local clerks stating the open carrying of firearms within 100 feet of a polling place, clerk’s office or absentee ballot counting site would be banned on Election Day. The directive specifically acknowledges those with a license to carry a concealed weapon must continue to follow the law and guidelines that apply to where they’re allowed to carry. In addition to Benson, the Lambert suit names as defendants Attorney General Dana Nessel and Joseph Gasper, director of the Michigan State Police.Benson’s “pronouncement directly conflicts with Michigan’s statutory scheme; makes an unsupported correlation between mere possession of a firearm and voter intimidation; and is conjured without any legal basis or authorization under Michigan law,” the Lambert suit alleges.
Pennsylvania: Trump Campaign Draws Rebuke for Surveilling Philadelphia Voters | Danny Hakim and Nick Corasaniti/The New York Times
The Trump campaign has been videotaping Philadelphia voters while they deposit their ballots in drop boxes, leading Pennsylvania’s attorney general to warn this week that the campaign’s actions fall outside of permitted poll watching practices and could amount to illegal voter intimidation. The campaign made a formal complaint to city officials on Oct. 16, saying a campaign representative had surveilled voters depositing two or three ballots at drop boxes, instead of only their own. The campaign called the conduct “blatant violations of the Pennsylvania election code,” according to a letter from a lawyer representing the Trump campaign that was reviewed by The New York Times. The campaign included photos of three voters who it claimed were dropping off multiple ballots.“This must be stopped,” a local lawyer for the Trump campaign, Linda A. Kerns, wrote in the letter, adding that the actions “undermine the integrity of the voting process. ”Both the Trump and Biden campaigns are focused on Pennsylvania, seen as one of the most important swing states in the election and where polls show Joseph R. Biden Jr. with a seven-point lead. The Trump campaign’s aggressive strategy in Philadelphia suggests its aim is to crack down on people dropping off ballots for family members or anyone else who is not strictly authorized to do so. Ms. Kerns demanded that the names of all voters who had used a drop box in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall on Oct. 14 be turned over to the campaign, and insisted that the city station a staff member around every drop box “at all times.” She also asked for footage from municipal cameras around City Hall.But city officials rejected the assertion that the voters who had been photographed had necessarily done something improper. The city’s lawyers forwarded the campaign’s complaints to the local district attorney, but did not make a formal referral and cast doubt on the assertions. They also said they do not track which voters use which drop box.
National: Shouting matches, partisan rallies, guns at polling places: Tensions high at early-voting sites | Joshua Partlow/The Washington Post
During a pro-Trump rally earlier this month in Nevada City, Calif., enthusiastic supporters in cars and trucks crowded into the parking lot of the county government center.As many as 300 people played music, cheered and called out through a megaphone, according to Natalie Adona, a county election official who could see the gathering from her second-floor office at the Eric Rood Administration Center.But unlike usual Trump rallies, this one was happening at the site of one of the most popular drive-up ballot boxes in the county. And early voting was already underway.That afternoon, voters were forced to navigate through the pro-Trump crowd, and some felt the electioneering amounted to voter intimidation. In an election year clouded with anxieties about voter intimidation and the possibility of election-related violence, the first days of early voting have unfolded with dozens of accusations of inappropriate campaigning and possible voter intimidation in at least 14 states. The reports, though anecdotal, illustrate the tensions unfolding as more than 33 million Americans have already cast ballots two weeks before Election Day.
National: U.S. government concludes Iran was behind threatening emails sent to Democrats | Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Craig Timberg/The Washington Post
The U.S. government has concluded that Iran is behind a series of threatening emails arriving this week in the inboxes of Democratic voters, according to two U.S. officials.Department of Homeland Security officials told state and local election administrators on a call Wednesday that a foreign government was responsible for the online barrage, according to the U.S. officials and state and local authorities who participated in the call, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity. A DHS official also said authorities had detected holes in state and local election websites and instructed those participating to patch their online services.The emails claimed to be from the Proud Boys, a far-right group supportive of President Trump, but appeared instead to be a deceptive campaign making use of a vulnerability in the organization’s online network.
Florida: Pinellas County deputies investigate report of armed voter intimidation at St. Petersburg voting location | Lisette Lopez and Ryan Smith/WFTS
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a report of possible armed voter intimidation at a downtown St. Petersburg voting location, the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections said. According to the Pinellas SOE Julie Marcus, two people suspected of voter intimidation were wearing security uniforms at the downtown St. Petersburg early voting location at 501 First Ave N.According to Marcus, the pair told a responding law enforcement officer that they are with a private security company. She says a concerned staff member reported at least one of them was armed. The pair set up a tent and claimed to be working for the Trump campaign, Marcus said.”These persons claimed or said that they were hired by the Trump campaign, again I’m not going to speculate to that. This was a licensed security company and they were licensed security officers,” Marcus said.
Minnesota: Calls for armed guards, ‘Army for Trump’ cause alarm | Stephen Montemayor/ Minneapolis StarTribune
Calls for armed military veterans combined with a volunteer “Army for Trump” to descend on Minnesota polling places have created fresh anxieties for state law enforcement and elections officials already preparing for a major election in the COVID-19 pandemic. Cybersecurity and the coronavirus pandemic dominated preparations for the vote this year, but state and federal officials are now closely monitoring new reports of private security contractors advertising jobs that would — illegally — dispatch armed guards at Minnesota polling places. Adding to those concerns, the Trump campaign has vowed to raise a 50,000-plus army of volunteer observers across an array of battleground states to monitor the voting. Raising fears of elections he says will be rigged, President Donald Trump, trailing in polls in Minnesota and other key battleground states, has called on his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen.”Minnesota GOP officials say roughly 3,000 people have signed up so far and will get training on state election laws, which forbid campaign workers to interact directly with voters. “The actual running of the election is coming along OK but that doesn’t mean that some of the reporting and messaging and things that have come out have not been alarming,” said Attorney General Keith Ellison, adding that he believes the prospect of armed guards at the polls could be a voter suppression tactic.