In 2008, two members of the New Black Panthers stood outside of a Philadelphia polling station. One was armed with a billy club, and witnesses later recounted how the men hurled threats and slurs at white voters as well as a black Republican poll watcher.
That behavior was a clear violation of federal law: 18 U.S. Code Section 594 states, “Whoever intimidates, threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose, or of causing such other person to vote for, or not to vote for, any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector, Member of the Senate, Member of the House of Representatives, Delegate from the District of Columbia, or Resident Commissioner, at any election held solely or in part for the purpose of electing such candidate, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”
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Yet while the Bush Justice Department’s civil rights division charged them with voter intimidation, the Obama administration chose to drop the case. The experience doesn’t seem to have been a deterrent, as one of them showed up again in 2012, this time as an official poll watcher.
In light of the current political climate, it’s likely that voter intimidation will become far more common this election cycle. What’s more, Republicans are particularly vulnerable to it: a Monmouth University poll conducted in August found that the majority of Trump supporters are planning to vote in person, whereas most Biden backers will cast their ballot by mail.
That makes it all the more important for conservatives to be aware of the problem and know what to do if confronted by it.
If the intimidation comes in the form of threats or physical violence, then call 911 immediately. Situations can escalate quickly and it’s important not to hesitate.
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Another danger is having your vote maliciously challenged. Vote challenger laws vary from one state to another, but in most jurisdictions challengers are appointed by political parties
or other groups and organizations.
A challenger’s role is to object when there is evidence of fraud. However, he or she must cite a valid reason for an objection, such as disputing your address or identity. Absent affirmative proof that a voter is not qualified, election officials must consider a voter’s registration valid.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission publishes contact information for election authorities in each state. Before you vote, find out what the procedure for appealing a challenged ballot is where you live. The Department of Justice also provides an online option for reporting acts of voter intimidation, along with other civil rights violations.
The 2020 election was already the most bitterly contested in recent memory; with the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the animosity has only grown. Given the sheer volume of hate that is being directed towards the president, it seems almost certain that those who support him will be targeted for intimidation.
They need to be prepared for it.
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