What’s the Line Between Legal Poll Watching and Illegal Intimidation?

What’s the Line Between Legal Poll Watching and Illegal Intimidation?

Nicole Craine for The New York Times Some voter intimidation is blatant, like the time when off-duty sheriff’s deputies and police officers in New Jersey patrolled predominantly Black and Latino polling places on Election Day while wearing armbands with a made-up name, the National Ballot Security Task Force. Carrying revolvers and two-way radios on their belts, they questioned voters, ripped down campaign signs and harassed poll workers , all on behalf of the Republican Party, whose candidate for governor won by a razor-thin margin of 1,797 votes. The New Jersey scheme, which took place in 1981 but is still remembered for its brashness by those who track transgressions at the polls, was clear-cut enough that the Republican National Committee agreed afterward to refrain from targeting minority voters in the name of preventing supposed voter fraud. But just what constitutes unlawful behavior on Election Day can be challenging to define, experts say, and can differ drastically from one jurisdiction to the next. Is a visible weapon inherently intimidating ? What about chanting “four more years ” outside a polling place? Or accosting a man helping his disabled mother to vote? Such questions may be crucial this Election Day as experts warn of potential unrest and increased activity by far-right extremists, and as President Trump’s request that supporters “go into the polls” and “watch very closely” has resulted in confusion over what amounts to legal poll watching and what crosses the line into unlawful intimidation. “It is gray,” said Justin Levitt, […]

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