Republican Voter Suppression Efforts were Banned for Decades. Here's what ChangedRoundup
tags: Republican Party, voting rights, Voter Suppression, 2020 Election
Kevin M. Kruse is a professor of history at Princeton University. A specialist in modern American political, social and urban/suburban history, he is the author and editor of several books including White Flight (2005), One Nation Under God (2015), and Fault Lines: A History of the United States since 1974 (2019).
As the presidential race lumbers toward the finish line, President Donald Trump's campaign to cast doubt on the integrity and reliability of the election is picking up speed.
In September, Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, claimed on social media — without any evidence — that Democrats planned to "add millions of fraudulent ballots" to "steal" the election. To prevent this imaginary threat, he called on "every able-bodied man [and] woman to join Army for Trump's election security operation." Meanwhile, at the first presidential debate, Trump Sr. repeated his charge that Democrats would "cheat" in the election and urged his loyal followers to "go into the polls and watch very carefully."
These calls for action from the Trump family support an ongoing effort by the GOP. In May, the Republican National Committee announced its own massive program to monitor polling places and challenge ballots cast by voters its representatives deem suspicious. The plan, backed by $20 million, called for the recruitment of 50,000 private citizens to serve as "poll watchers" across 15 battleground states. The RNC hasn't revealed how many of these "watchers" have actually been recruited, but the operation is well underway, with members monitoring early-voting sites and drop boxes for mail-in ballots.
Republicans' efforts will surely spike on Election Day, with a strong potential for electoral disruptions and civil disturbances, if not outright violence. "There's going to be lots of watchers, lots of cameras and lots of attorneys all over the country," predicted the head of the GOP's county organization in suburban Philadelphia. "It's going to be chaotic."
This RNC effort is remarkable in many ways, starting with the simple fact that it's possible in the first place.
For the past 40 years, the party organization has been bound by a "consent decree" secured in federal court in 1982. As a result, the GOP was barred from engaging in these kinds of "election security" campaigns, which seem to be little more than efforts at voter intimidation and election interference.
At a private meeting with Republican officials last fall, Justin Clark, a senior lawyer with the 2020 Trump campaign, noted that this was "a huge, huge, huge, huge deal." The RNC can now coordinate Election Day operations with various campaigns and committees. As a result, Clark said, Republicans would have "a much bigger program, much more aggressive program, a better funded program" to fight "voter fraud" than ever before.