What Do We Do About Voter Intimidation?Roundup
tags: Republican Party, voting rights, Vote Suppression, 2020 Election
Donald Trump’s diagnosis with COVID-19 shifted the race in several ways. It refocused the election on the pandemic. It raised questions about Trump’s honesty and competence. And it sparked concerns about the president’s health.
But it also obscured something important. As the recently thwarted plot to attack Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer shows, the risk of political violence is dangerously high. But President Trump responded by denouncing Whitmer and publicly sympathizing with the attackers’ grievances, which could encourage similar attempts.
And that was before Trump doubled down on his call for poll watchers to be an “Army for Trump.”
Whatever the president’s motivation, it’s playing with fire. And stoking rather than tamping down the potential for violence fits with what Trump and his Republican collaborators had been doing before the president tested positive for coronavirus: laying out a three-pronged strategy to tilt the electoral playing field: voter suppression before the election, voter intimidation during, and voter disenfranchisement after.
Trump’s been pushing this message on Twitter and in public appearances for months. Most people reading this article know these accusations are false — just last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate there’s no evidence of widespread voting fraud . But that doesn’t mean Trump supporters do. A mid-September Yahoo/YouGov poll asked “Do you think this year’s presidential election will be free and fair?” Half of the respondents who said they intend to vote for Trump answered “no.”
This fictional voter fraud narrative is necessary because it rationalizes the rest of the three-pronged effort. On voter suppression, it lets Republican-run states complement traditional techniques of purging voter rolls and reducing polling places in predominantly minority areas with 2020-specific variants, such as reducing locations where voters can drop off mail-in ballots.
For example, two days after the debate, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that, to “help stop attempts at illegal voting,” counties cannot have more than one location to drop off completed ballots. This forced Harris county, which includes Houston, to close 11 drop-off sites, leaving just a single site for 4.7 million residents.
The next step is what happens on Election Day itself.