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2020 elections: Civil servants prepare for conflict after Trump tells his supporters “to go to the polls and watch”

“I urge my supporters to go in the ballot box and watch very closely, because that’s what needs to happen. I urge them to do it,” Trump said when asked if he would tell his supporters to stay calm and not participate in civil election unrest.

Civil servants retaliated against the president for his remarks and engaged local law enforcement and others who have the power to maintain polling station order to ensure they are prepared.

“Trump also told his supporters to ‘get in the ballot box and watch very closely.’ But he was not talking about surveying. He was talking about intimidating voters, “Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter.”

; BG – Voter threats are illegal in Nevada. Believe me when I say, “Do it and you will be persecuted.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy, also a Democrat, posted a video on Twitter Wednesday night saying the state would pursue voter intimidation. “We will not allow Donald Trump to undermine our election,” Healy said. “It is a crime to intimidate a voter or to obstruct voting, to interfere in elections and we will persecute.”

There are certain laws and precautions about how people and campaigns can be official observers of polls in most countries. The rules vary by country and many include official registration and how many people from each country can watch in a particular place. But experts warn that Trump’s remarks will fuel problems with “unofficial” poll observers – people who show up outside polling stations outside the scope of these rules and intimidate voters.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, another Democrat, told CNN on Thursday that Minnesota law restricts polling observers to one per campaign, but he is concerned that more people will still arrive to try to observe the day. of the election.

“I’m more worried about what’s happening outside the polling station with those frustrated supporters of every candidate who show up thinking they’ll be allowed access and realize they won’t be,” Simon said.

Election officials across the country have begun preparing for the worst by contacting local law enforcement and others with the power to maintain order, said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research.

“I’m very concerned that armies of pollsters may be obstructing the election, not being adequately trained or seen as intimidating,” Becker told CNN. “Election officials need to think about these things more than ever.”

Within polling stations, some states limit the number of campaign observers, but in other states anyone can watch. In Wisconsin, for example, anyone can be an election observer as long as they register, stay in a “designated observatory area” and do not interfere, said Reid Magni, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Electoral Commission.

“The guiding principle is that the activities of election observers cannot disturb the polling station,” Magni said. “Observers cannot engage in business or interfere. If the observer has any information about the voter’s qualifications, and the person is a convicted criminal, they can say, “I want to challenge this voter.” But they must have personal knowledge. “

Trump’s campaign defended the president’s words in a statement to CNN.

“Survey observers are crucial to ensuring the fairness of all elections, and volunteers who observe President Trump’s polls will be trained to ensure that all rules are applied equally, all valid ballots are reported, and all violations of Democrats are being called, “campaign spokeswoman Thea MacDonald said.

“If fouls are requested, Trump’s campaign will refer the matter to the Court to enforce the laws, as written by state legislatures, to protect every voter’s right to vote,” McDonald added. “President Trump and his team will be ready to ensure that polls are conducted properly, securely and transparently as we work to ensure the free and fair elections that Americans deserve.”

Confusion of polling stations

Confusion over poll observation and voter intimidation has already begun as countries begin early voting. On Tuesday, at least one Trump supporter trying to observe an early voting site was rejected by a satellite office in Philadelphia. Trump falsely claims that this is an example of corruption on Twitter during the debate.

“She wanted to enter the facility and observe the vote and tried to videotape the volunteers when she was told she had to stay the same distance as the other polling observers outside,” said Julian Lutz, who voted with his mother and witnessed of the event, told CNN.

A Pennsylvania state prosecutor told CNN that the service is actively involved in identifying and stopping voter intimidation and interference, and there are discussions at the local and state levels about voter intimidation.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the city was preparing for election day in response to Trump’s call for his supporters to go to the polls.

“Based on his comments, we will draw up an interdepartmental plan for the day,” Kenny said.

Last month, a group of Trump supporters appeared in front of a polling station on the outskirts of Democratic Virginia, waving flags of Trump’s election campaign and shouting, “Four more years.” Some voters and election workers said they felt intimidated by the episode. Due to the pandemic, voters lined up outside, but anxiety forced additional space to open up in Fairfax County Government Center and cause inconvenient voters to wait inside. At least one voter also asked to be accompanied by the group.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement that Trump’s comments “openly call on his supporters to gather at polling stations, go inside and force and intimidate voters.”

“Although there are authorized ‘poll observers’ who monitor polls on election day, their responsibilities are clearly defined and do not include what President Trump has proposed. Voter harassment and intimidation will not be tolerated in Virginia,” he said. Herring, Democrat.

Elected officials and experts are preparing for a more direct confrontation and even potential violence. After the debate, white nationalist groups and far-right activists applauded Trump’s debate call for action and his response that the far-right group Proud Boys should “stand back and stand aside.”

“I have chills. I still have chills. He tells people to stay away. As in: Prepare for War,” White Supreme Authority Andrew Anglin posted on his neo-Nazi website on Wednesday. Anglin, who runs a site known for harmful neo-Nazi content, left the United States during a lawsuit won by a Jew aimed at death threats and heinous anti-Semitic and sexist slander by Anglin’s followers at his insistence.

“Join the Army for the Trump Election Security Operation”

Trump’s campaign is also working to get his supporters to observe the ballot box on election day. Behind the scenes, the campaign and the Republican National Committee have been collecting polls for months. RNC officials said attracting polling observers was a “huge” part of their election day operations, as they sought to send tens of thousands of election observers across the country, which republicans say could be the largest. their operation to monitor the polls.

In the swaying state of Pennsylvania, the poll mission is in front and in the center, with Facebook ads being paid for by local Republican leaders directing Trump supporters to the Trump Army’s Trump Campaign website.

The rhetoric surrounding surveillance surveillance often uses inflammatory and belligerent language.

“We need every man and woman who is able to work to join the military for Trump’s election security operation on Defendyourballot.com,” the son of President Donald Trump Jr. said in a video.

“Biden, the AOC and the rest of the Bolshevik mob are gathering (sic) maniacs to steal the election. Join the military to stop Trump. Register at http://defendyourballot.com,” Trump campaign officials wrote. this summer .

Another ad, paid for by the Republican City Committee in Philadelphia, encouraged supporters to “retaliate” against Democrats. “You saw the news. You saw the Democrats trying to tip the scales. Now it’s time to TURN AWAY,” the ad said.

Democrats and constituencies say the possibility of violence is real.

“The risk of violence is even more pronounced at the moment, as we have seen an escalation of violence across the country over the past six months,” said Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser at the non-partisan democracy fund that focuses on the integrity of elections. “Electoral staff are aware of this. They have protocols to secure the polling station and train respondents at this time.”

Patrick said states have rules governing the conduct of polling stations, but those rules have a physical limit on how far they extend beyond the polls themselves.

“Part of the question is also that when you have people who are out of the polls to choose candidates, it’s perfectly legal in every state, as long as they’re outside the legal line,” Patrick said. “In some cases, this can be misinterpreted as intimidation or, depending on what these people say or do, it can be intimidation. So, there will be a problem here with the perception on both sides of the aisle of what is acceptable and what is not. ”

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