Rigging an election gets easier every day. Republicans have already employed tactics like Voter ID laws, gerrymandering and preventing early voting to make voter suppression one of America’s greatest scandals.
Now the GOP has access to brand-new tools to keep progressives from the polls with the expiration of a legal settlement Tuesday.
Far from being an issue that could be exploited by both sides, these particular intimidation tools were uniquely Republican in use, and the prohibition on them was a prohibition on the Republican National Committee.
In 1981 the Republican National Committee supported their candidate for Governor in New Jersey by establishing something they called the ‘Ballot Security Task Force‘. The task force attempted to have people in predominately non-white districts removed from the voter rolls in New Jersey and hired off-duty cops to patrol polling places with firearms and ‘Ballot Security Task Force’ armbands.
The Democrats sued, and in the settlement Republicans were prohibited from undertaking ‘ballot security’ initiatives anywhere in the country.
On Tuesday, a Federal Judge allowed the settlement to expire, meaning that it is once again permissible for armed Republicans to patrol polling places and for voter roll purging efforts to resume in predominantly African American and Hispanic neighborhoods nationwide. All done under the guise of preventing voter fraud.
The Trump campaign was accused of violating the settlement repeatedly, including by means of their controversial “Trump Elections Observer” program. The Trump administration has since attempted another intimidation effort through the now-defunct Voter Fraud Commission.
While Trump has claimed there was substantial evidence of voter fraud, there isn’t. In fact, the Brennan Center for Justice thoroughly debunked the myth of a voter fraud epidemic, pointing out minuscule incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. But that myth has been exploited to advance voter suppression efforts by the Republican Party such as voter ID laws.
With Tuesday’s ruling allowing for even greater intimidation efforts, expect the myth to continue to grow, and expect armed ‘ballot integrity’ officers have the ability to patrol polling places in Democratic or minority precincts on November 6.
Katelyn Kivel is a journalist and political scientist in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.