Donald Trump renewed calls this weekend for supporters to travel to precincts outside their own Nov. 8 to keep a vigilant eye out for voter fraud. “We don’t want to lose an election because you know what I’m talking about,” the Republican presidential candidate told an overwhelmingly white crowd in Manheim, Pa. on Saturday. “Because you know what? That’s a big, big problem, and nobody wants to talk about it. Nobody has the guts to talk about it. So go and watch these polling places.” Saturday was the second night in a row Mr. Trump urged supporters to poll watch, adding on to his repeated warnings in August that the election is “rigged” because of voter fraud. But Trump’s exhortations concern voters’ rights advocates who fear amateur poll watchers could intimidate and even harass minority voters The conflict, then, shows the difficulty with the practice: can Republican poll watchers “safeguard democracy,” as one exponent in Louisville said in 2004, without reverting to voter intimidation, particularly if they raise challenges at polls based on voters’ race, religion, or ethnicity?
“There’s actually a risk that, in a more disorganized way, people are going to be showing up to the polls, they won’t know the law, and they’ll be engaging in discriminatory challenges,” Adam Gatlin, counsel for the Democracy Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, told ProPublica earlier this month. “That can create the potential for a lot of disruption, longer lines because each voter takes longer to vote, and potentially discouraging and intimidating voters from coming to the polls.”
Poll watchers can’t go near voters as they vote, but they can watch them check-in, according to Politico. Indeed, partisan poll watchers alert their parties who hasn’t voted so they can encourage loyalists to get to the polls.
But Trump appears to have encouraged crowds in rural Pennsylvania this weekend to become polling station watchdogs. But he didn’t elaborate on what they should watch for, only that they should “watch carefully, because we’re going to win the state of Pennsylvania,” according to The Washington Post.