“I invite my supporters to go to the polls and watch carefully, because that’s what should happen. I urge them to do so,” Trump said when asked if he would tell his supporters to stay calm and not engage in unrest. in the civil around the election.
State officials return to the President for his remarks and liaise with local law enforcement and others with authority to maintain order at polling locations to ensure they are ready.
“Trump also told ‘his supporters’ to ‘go to the polls and watch carefully.’ But he is not talking about watching the polls. He is talking about voter intimidation, “Nevada Attorney Aaron Ford, a Democrat, tweeted. “FYI ̵1; voter intimidation is illegal in Nevada. Believe me when I say this: You do it and I will chase you.”
There are some laws and precautions in the area that surround how individuals and campaigns can become official poll observers in most states. Policies vary by state, and many include official registration and how many people from each party can watch in a specific location. But experts warn that Trump’s remarks will raise issues with “unofficial” poll watchers – people coming out of polling locations that those rules do not reach and intimidate voters .
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, another Democrat, told CNN on Thursday that Minnesota laws limit poll observers in every campaign, but he worries many people will come to try and observe on Election Day.
“I am more concerned about what will happen outside the polling place to the failed supporters of any candidate who comes out thinking they will be allowed to access and know they will not,” Simon said.
Election officials across the country have begun preparing for the worst by contacting local law enforcement and others with the authority to maintain order, said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research.
“I am very concerned that the armies of polling watchers could interfere with the election, they may not be skilled enough or view them as intimidation,” Becker told CNN. “Election officials need to think about these things more than ever.”
Within polling places, some states limit the number of observers per campaign, but in other states, anyone can watch. For example, in Wisconsin, anyone can be an election observer as long as they sign in, stay in a “designated observer area” and do not create a riot, said Reid Magney, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
“The guiding principle is that the activities of election observers cannot cause chaos in the polling place,” Magney said. “Observers cannot be up to each other’s business or interfere. If an observer has some information about voter qualification, such as a person convicted of a crime, they can say, ‘I want to challenge the voter. this. ‘ But they need to have personal knowledge. “
Trump’s campaign defends what the President said in a statement to CNN.
“Poll watchdogs are critical to ensuring the fairness of any election, and President Trump’s volunteer observers are trained to ensure that all policies are applied equally, all valid ballots are counted, and all violations of Democratic rule have been called for, “campaign spokesman Thea McDonald said.
“If fouls are called, the Trump Campaign will go to court to enforce laws, properly drafted by state legislatures, to protect every right to vote,” McDonald added. “President Trump and his team are ready to ensure that polls run smoothly, safely, and transparently as we work to deliver the free and fair elections that Americans deserve.”
Confusion at polling sites
“He wanted to go inside the facility and monitor the voting, and tried to videotape the volunteers when they told him he had to stay at the same distance as other poll observers, outside,” Julian Lutz, voted with his mother and witnessed the event, CNN was told.
A Pennsylvania state attorney general told CNN that the office is actively involved in identifying and stopping voter intimidation and interference, and is conducting discussions at the local and state level about voter intimidation.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the city is making preparations for Election Day in response to Trump’s call for his supporters to go to the polls.
“Based on his comments, we will make an inter-agency plan for that day,” Kenney said.
Last month, a group of Trump supporters showed up outside a polling location in a Virginia Democratic suburb, waving Trump’s campaign flags and shouting, “Four more years.” Some voters and election workers have indicated that they feel afraid of the episode. Due to the pandemic, voters lined up outside, but the chaos forced extra space to open at the Fairfax County Government Center and brought uncomfortable voters inside to wait. At least one voter also requested to be escorted out of the group.
Virginia Attorney Mark Herring said in a statement that Trump’s comments “clearly urge his supporters to gather at the polls, go inside, and possibly harass and intimidate voters. “
“While there are authorized ‘poll watchers’ who monitor elections on Election Day, their duties have been clearly laid out, and they will not include President Trump’s proposal. Voter abuse and intimidation will not be tolerated in Virginia , “said Herring, a Democrat.
Election officials and experts are waiting for more direct confrontations, and even potential violence. Since the debate, White nationalist groups and right-wing activists have applauded the debate on the call for action and his response that the right-wing Proud Boys should “stand up and stand up.”
‘Join army for Trump election security operation’
Trump’s campaign is also working to encourage its supporters to watch the polls on Election Day. Behind the scenes, the campaign and the Republican National Committee recruited poll workers for months. RNC officials say the registration of watchers is a “big” part of their operation on Election Day, as they aim to send thousands of election monitors across the country, Republican officials said. may be their biggest poll watching operation.
In the swing state of Pennsylvania, the mission to recruit poll watchers is front and center, with Facebook ads paid for by local Republican chapters directing Trump supporters on a Trump campaign website, “Army for Trump.”
The rhetoric around watching the poll often uses inflammatory and militant language.
“We need every able-bodied man, woman to join the army for Trump’s election security operation at defendyourballot.com,” President Donald Trump Jr.’s son said. in a video.
Another ad paid for by the City of Philadelphia Committee encourages supporters to “fight” against Democrats. “You’ve seen the news. You’ve seen how Democrats are trying to tip the scales, now is the time to FIGHT,” the ad said.
Democrats and voter groups say the possibility of violence is real.
“The risk of violence is better known at the moment because we have seen an increase in violence across the country in the last six months,” said Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser to the nonpartisan Democracy Fund, which focuses on election integrity. “Election officials are aware of this. They have protocols in place for securing the polling place and training of polling workers at the moment.”
Patrick said states have rules governing behavior in polling places, but those policies have a physical limit on how far they have extended to the polls themselves.
“Part of the issue is also when you have individuals outside a polling place voting for their candidate, that is perfectly legal in every state, as long as they are not within legal limits,” Patrick said. “In some cases, it can be misconstructed as intimidation or, depending on what individuals are saying or doing, it can be intimidating. And so there will be an issue of perception here on both sides of the aisle, if what is acceptable and what is not. ”