The party filed lawsuits on Monday against Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican Parties of Ohio, Arizona, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. The federal suits also name Trump ally Roger Stone, who through his “Stop the Steal” super PAC is recruiting volunteers to patrol hundreds of voting precincts in Democratic-leaning cities with large minority populations.
The lawsuits accuse Trump, Stone, and the GOP of violating both the Voting Rights Act and the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act by “conspiring to threaten, intimidate, and thereby prevent minority voters in urban neighborhoods from voting in the 2016 election.”
“Trump’s calls for unlawful intimidation have grown louder and louder, and the conspiracy to harass and threaten voters on Election Day has already resulted in numerous acts that threaten to interfere with the voting rights of registered…voters,” the lawsuit says. “Untold numbers of…voters will suffer irreparable harm if the right to vote is imperiled by the same forms of virulent harassment that federal law has prohibited since shortly after the Civil War.”
“Untold numbers of voters will suffer irreparable harm.”
As Trump has fallen further behind Hillary Clinton in national polls over the past few months, he has begun publicly casting doubt on the veracity of the election process, warning of “massive voter fraud” and “rigging” but providing no concrete evidence of either. Trump has also encouraged his supporters in recent weeks to go into “certain areas” on and before Election Day to monitor for this fraud. Some of those supporters have said outright that they interpret this as a license to harass voters of color.
In recent weeks, the lawsuit notes, Trump’s campaign has bragged to the press about its intent to convince some people not to vote at all, with one campaign official telling Bloomberg News: “We have three major voter suppression operations under way” aimed at white progressives, young women, and African Americans.
While that quote was referring to a strategy of posting discouraging messages on the radio and social media — a tactic that election law expert Rick Hasen called “odious, but…not illegal” — other actions listed in the lawsuit may indeed violate federal law.
Trump supporters have been quoted saying they plan to engage in “racially profiling” voters on Election Day, to “make them a little bit nervous.” Other Trump devotees have said they will be on alert for anyone who does not speak English. During early voting, there have been reports of vigilantes “photographing and videotaping cars coming and going” in an intimidating manner.
The Democratic Party’s lawsuits also cite instances of alleged intentional misinformation, including when Stone and local Republican officials have posted on social media encouraging Democrats to vote online or by text message — which is not possible.
Noting that Election Day is one week away, the lawsuits ask for immediate relief, including a ban on Stone’s poll monitoring operation and “any and all planned voter-intimidation activities.”
The new charges in these four hotly contested swing states come on top of another federal lawsuit accusing the Republican National Committee of violating a decades-old court order barring them from voter intimidation. A hearing in that case will be held in New Jersey this week.