The more Trump sees his chances of victory in November slipping away, the louder and more frequently he tells his supporters that the election is “rigged” and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will steal the presidency with the help of “illegals,” “international bankers” (a dog whistle referring to Jews) and “the inner cities.”
“I hear too many bad stories, and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about,” Trump said at a rally earlier this month. “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.”
Trump has made similar remarks at other recent rallies, fervently encouraging his supporters to become “Election observers” to “Help Me Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election!” as it states on his website. And Trump’s followers are more than willing to comply, openly saying they will intimidate voters based on race and ethnicity.
“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” Steve Webb, a 61-year-old carpenter from Fairfield, Ohio, told the Boston Globe. “I’ll look for well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American. I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”
Voter intimidation is, in itself, illegal, however.
The Boston Globe reported that Trump supporters at a rally in Cincinnati said they “plan to go to their local precincts to look for illegal immigrants who may attempt to vote. They are worried that Democrats will load up buses of minorities and take them to vote several times in different areas of the city.”
An article published by Breitbart, the right-wing outlet whose chairman serves as CEO of the Trump campaign, espouses this claim, saying, “Trump’s concern stems from Border Patrol’s assertion that illegal immigrants are gaining access to the United States purely to vote in November’s election, and in fact are being hurried up in order to collect more votes.” However, there is no evidence to back up that claim.
At a rally over the summer, Trump told supporters they must become “observers” in “certain areas” and watch for “other people” who show up to the polls on Election Day.
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.
Meanwhile, if Trump does not win the election, some of his supporters openly and on the record discussed violent rebellion and assassination with the Boston Globe.
“If [Clinton’s] in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it,” Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor, told the Globe. “We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take. I would do whatever I can for my country.” Bowman then placed a Trump mask on his face and posed for pictures, according to the Globe.
There is also fear in open-carry states that Trump supporters will be armed as they attempt to intimidate voters.
Late last week, two Trump supporters openly carrying firearms sat outside the campaign office of a Democratic congressional candidate in Virginia for nearly 12 hours, according to a local CBS affiliate, causing volunteers in the office to feel intimidated.
Su Wolff, a volunteer for candidate Jane Dittmar, said one of the Trump supporters “turned sideways to be sure that we would see that he has an open carry gun, which is legal, it’s fine, but it’s intimidating.”
Holding Trump signs and one wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, the individuals said they were protesting Clinton and were there “to provide a voice for someone who might be closet supporters of Trump.”