The Democratic Party on Wednesday asked a federal judge to hold the Republican National Committee in contempt for “supporting and enabling” Donald Trump’s efforts to “intimidate and discourage minority voters from voting in the 2016 Presidential Election.”
The motion is a drastic move for the Democrats, who have repeatedly raised alarms about the Trump campaign’s call for poll monitors to watch for “voter fraud,” noting that such calls likely violate a decades-old consent decree prohibiting the RNC from engaging in “ballot security” activities at polling places.
“Trump has falsely and repeatedly told his supporters that the November 8 election will be ‘rigged’ based upon fabricated claims of voter fraud in ‘certain areas’ or ‘certain sections’ of key states,” the Democratic National Committee’s motion says. “Unsurprisingly, those ‘certain areas’ are exclusively communities in which large minority voting populations reside.”
In order for the Republican Party to be in violation of the consent decree, the court would have to find that the party is directly supporting Trump’s efforts.
In their motion, the DNC points to evidence that the RNC is doing just that. They note that vice presidential candidate Mike Pence admitted in an August rally that “the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee are working very very closely with state governments and secretaries of states all over the country to ensure ballot integrity.”
The motion, filed by Hillary Clinton campaign counsel Marc Elias, the DNC asks the court for expedited review, given that the election is less than two weeks away and early voting is already underway.
Courts first issued the consent decree forbidding the RNC from “engaging in so-called ‘ballot security’ measures” in the early 1980s, when the party was caught attempting to interrogate and intimidate registered voters in predominantly African-American precincts in New Jersey. It has been modified over the years, most recently in 2009 when an appeals court denied the Republicans’ claims that it violated their First Amendment Rights.
If the court were to find that the RNC is violating the consent decree — which currently extends until December 2017 — the decree will be extended for another eight years.
Election law expert Rick Hasen wrote on his blog that he thinks the DNC’s motion “will get very serious consideration by the courts, including potentially the Supreme Court.”
Read the DNC’s motion: