There’s nothing stopping the RNC from using voter intimidation tactics in November now that a decades-old agreement has ended, experts warn

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People wear masks as they wait in line to vote at a voting center during primary voting in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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For nearly 40 years, the Republican National Committee was barred from engaging in voter intimidation tactics and “ballot security” measures like paying law enforcement to appear at polling sites. 

But in 2018, a federal judge lifted the restriction, ending the 1982 consent decree. This year will be the first time in nearly four decades that a presidential election is held without this agreement in place — an addition to the heap of challenges already influencing voters amid a global health crisis. 

The coronavirus pandemic has upended US elections, bringing on postponed primaries, changes to in-person polling sites, and a battle over expanded vote-by-mail. 

“We’ve never seen a presidential election quite like this one because the dynamics of it are just so different,” Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel and senior deputy director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told Business Insider.

In 1981, Democrats accused Republican officials of voter suppression after the RNC sent off-duty police officers to patrol polling sites in Black and Latino neighborhoods, Greenbaum said. The DNC and RNC agreed to settle the case rather than go to court, leading to limitations in the ways the RNC can monitor voting. Republicans did not admit to any wrongdoing but agreed to stop policing communities of color. 

Since then, DNC officials invoked the agreement multiple times in the course of its near-40-year run, acting as a check on the RNC if it engaged in dubious tactics on or ahead of Election Day.

Voting rights groups are on the lookout for intimidation

“In New Jersey, what you had was you had off duty state and local law enforcement people outside the polls with guns, with walkie-talkies, with armbands, that were identifying themselves as being ballot security. You could have a repeat of that,” Greenbaum told Business Insider, adding that such intimidation tactics are likely to happen “particularly in an election that’s as charged as this one — and in a country that’s charged as it is right now.”

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While it’s a federal violation to participate in voter intimidation of any kind, voter suppression remains a concern for historically disenfranchised communities.

Earlier this month that President Donald Trump said he’d want to police officers stationed at polling sites to prevent alleged voter fraud.

When reached for comment, Trump 2020 General Counsel Matthew Morgan told Business Insider that “Republicans are committed to making sure the polls are being run correctly, securely, and transparently to deliver the free and fair election Americans deserve.”

Voting-rights groups are watching out for threats and actions similar to this that signal the potential for voter intimidation and suppression.

If officers are placed at polling sites this November, just as they were in 1981, “one of the things that we would do is go to court,” Greenbaum said. 

There’s also concern that the RNC might once again engage in tactics like this. When the decree came to an end in 2018, experts warned that Trump could try to push RNC officials into deploying law enforcement officers to the polls …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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