As the country gears up for Election Day, concerns over Donald Trump’s “rigged election” rhetoric have created concerns about polling locations across the United States on November 8, with Mr. Trump encouraging his supporters to “watch the polls” to prevent voter fraud. Critics claim that voter fraud is not a statistically significant problem and that Trump’s “poll watchers” could be a potentially hazardous intimidation tactic. To combat the possibility of voter intimidation, especially during the first presidential election following the 2013 Supreme Court curtailment of the Voting Rights Act, many voting rights groups are stepping up to make sure the election goes smoothly and fairly. Most recently, advocates in California announced that they will monitor more polling places than usual in that state, joining a nationwide movement to combat potential voter suppression.
As one of the most divisive political contests in US history draws to a close, these monitors will have their work cut out for them, contending with confusion over new voting requirements in many locations, a significant decrease in federal polling oversight, and flaring tempers on both sides of the aisle.
Trump has compounded the “rigged election” claims with the controversial statement that he would only accept the election results “if I win,” prompting concerns that such a position will lead his supporters to distrust the US democratic process. Trump has called on supporters help root out voter fraud, even though a national study conducted earlier this year found only 31 credible cases of voter fraud in the United States, out of a billion votes cast. Critics claim that in light of the negligible threat presented by voter fraud, unqualified Trump supporters monitoring polls only serve to intimidate voters who plan to vote against him in November.
“Poll watchers left unchecked may unfairly target minority voters,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told Bloomberg. “It creates the potential for a lot of mischief, chaos, and disruption on Election Day.”