Over the weekend at a rally in Manheim, Pennsylvania, Trump once again encouraged his supporters to “watch” voters at the polls in “certain areas.”
“I hear too many bad stories, and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about,” he said. “So, go and vote and then go check out areas because a lot of bad things happen, and we don’t want to lose for that reason.”
And his suggestion has turned into a concerted effort. Trump has a page on his website for people to be a “Trump Election Observer” that says, “Help Me Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election!”
Trump has previously suggested to his voters that they watch the polls. At a rally over the summer, he told supporters they must become “observers” in “certain areas” and watch for “other people” who show up to the polls on Election Day.
“Maybe you should go down and volunteer or do something,” Trump told the audience in Altoona after saying he had “heard some stories about certain parts of the state, and we have to be very careful.”
“We’re going to watch Pennsylvania,” he said. “Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times. If you do that, we’re not going to lose. The only way we can lose, in my opinion — I really mean this, Pennsylvania — is if cheating goes on.”
According to campaign observers, the “certain areas” Trump has asked his supporters to watch are primarily areas with large support for Democrats — and with large populations of Black and Latino voters.
Voter Intimidation, Voter Challengers and the Myth of Voter Fraud Impact Minorities
Trump’s requests have largely been identified as voter intimidation. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, voter challenger laws in many states “are susceptible to abuse.” In a report titled “Voter Challengers,” Nicolas Riley, who serves as counsel and fellow at the Center, writes, “Twenty-four states allow private citizens to challenge a voter at the polls without offering any documentation to show that the voter is actually ineligible. This leaves even lawful voters vulnerable to frivolous or discriminatory challenges.”
Voter intimidation is frequently guised as an attempt to prevent “voter fraud”; however, numerous studies have shown that “voter fraud” is virtually nonexistent and is more often than not the result of clerical errors. The myth of voter fraud has primarily served to enforce strict voter identification laws, which disenfranchise minority voters, courts across the country have recently ruled.
Historically, voter challenger laws have served to prevent minorities, including Blacks and women, from voting. “This history of discriminatory voter challenges casts doubt on the fraud-prevention arguments traditionally used to justify these laws,” Riley writes.
The practice is similar today. “In recent years, challengers have targeted voters of color, student voters, and voters with disabilities,” according to Riley. “Over the past several election cycles, challengers have stationed themselves at polling places in predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods, on university campuses, and even near residential mental healthcare facilities to contest the eligibility of voters who live in these areas. These patterns reveal a heightened focus on challenging specific groups of new and vulnerable voters.”