After sending poll-watchers to record any suspicious activity at polling locations on Election Day, Tea Party group True the Vote is apparently having some trouble proving their allegedly widespread reports of voter fraud in the presidential election. According to their newsletter, the organization is “still collecting reports of election fraud and process failure” and is waiting for local election officials to respond to their requests for data. While they wait, True the Vote is switching gears to attack a 30-year-old agreement by the Republican and Democratic National Committees meant to stop the Republican Party from caging African American voters.
In a post-election webinar, Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of True the Vote, reported a meeting with RNC chair Reince Priebus in which he explained the RNC could not directly do anything to combat voter fraud because of this agreement. In 1982, the RNC and the New Jersey Republican State Committee agreed not to pursue “ballot security activities” in minority districts, or to target suspected voter fraud based on racial or ethnic criteria. This agreement was necessary because the RNC was caught compiling lists of mostly Black and Latino voters to challenge at the polls and hiring armed guards to police polling places. The consent decree has been employed many times since to protect minority votes. But True the Vote claims the consent decree “robs” poll watchers of their power:
First, the decree effectively robs poll watchers (and the ballot stakeholders that put them there) of their most important function: spotting and neutralizing attempted voter fraud.Indeed, poll watchers will mostly make note of procedural errors that could have negative impacts on voters. However, poll watchers also improve overall faith in the system when electors know that ALL of the rules are being enforced…The RNC is effectively jammed: choosing between developing a system that the federal court and the DNC agree would be flawless or spending time and energy on developing issue ideas or get out the vote efforts. Time and money being finite, the RNC picks GOTV over “Ballot Security.” [...] However, in this Decree comes opportunity. The RNC, DNC and federal courts have basically created a void where true, disinterested election integrity and ballot security can be created. The answer is in YOU. Should citizens fight to have the Decree overturned? No – such action only legitimizes the agreement. Federal law, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 in particular, empowers you to fight for clean registrations and fair elections in your own communities. Take this whole episode for what it is: an example of how the established political parties and governing interests jockey to consolidate power.
True the Vote is encouraging its volunteers to circumvent the consent decree while distancing itself from the legally-handicapped GOP. Yet the group had no problem coordinating with the GOP during the election, even providing poll watchers for Republican candidates. This coordination could prove complicated not only for True the Vote, which is currently under criminal investigation, but for the RNC. Brentin Mock at Colorlines notes that the RNC could have violated the consent decree through the actions of True the Vote and Tea Party surrogates. A Pittsburgh Tea Party group working for the local Republican Party actively trained poll watchers to target African American neighborhoods as “historical places of fraud” — closely resembling True the Vote language on minority communities. The RNC has not disavowed these surrogates.
Meanwhile, party members not constrained by the decree seem to be jumping at the chance to accuse minorities of voter fraud. Since the election, state-level GOP members have complained that the turnout of “people of color” and “dozens of black people” alone is cause for suspicion.