My colleague Peter Daou made an excellent argument that Donald Trump can take or leave the presidency…his real endgame is to mainstream white nationalism. It’s an intriguing possibility and it goes a long way to explaining why Trump is polling at literally zero percent with Black voters in key states, and why there has been a surge in minority voters registering as Democrats. And it certainly makes sense of his continued, desperate efforts to deny minority voters the franchise.
Donald Trump is now doubling down on a claim he made a week ago that the election might be “rigged,” and is now taking it one step further: He is asking people to volunteer to be “Trump Election Observers” who would stand guard at polling places and make sure Hillary supporters don’t “cheat.” He’s even put up a page on his website urging his supporters to take action:
The idea isn’t new. “Election observers” have actually been used for years by right-wing politicians. Under the guise of protecting the integrity of the polls, Republicans have sent vigilantes into Black and Latinx neighborhoods to intimidate minority voters and lower turnout.
Back in 1981, the New Jersey Republican Party sent people calling themselves the “National Ballot Security Task Force” to breathe down the necks of voters in minority neighborhoods — which may have enabled Republican Tom Kean to squeak to a 2,000-vote victory in the extremely close governor’s race.
This practice is illegal — in fact, just after Kean’s victory, the Republican National Committee was placed under a federal court order forbidding them from engaging in “ballot security” activities.
Trump may well be violating the Third Circuit’s consent decree — which is still in force — but vigilante poll watchers may be the only tactic he and the Republican Party have left to suppress minority votes.
Just last month, a federal court struck down North Carolina’s GOP-sponsored voting restrictions, saying that the law targeted Black voters “with almost surgical precision.” A similar ruling in Texas forced the state to water down its discriminatory voter ID requirements, allowing voters to use registration cards and other forms of ID that Black and Latinx people are equally likely to possess.
As the courts protect poll access, Trump’s path to depressing minority voter turnout is getting increasingly narrow. America is wising up to Republican attempts to turn back the clock on voting rights, and they are saying no.