Trump appears to tell supporters to form roving voter intimidation squads

“So go over and — watch. And watch carefully.”

CREDIT: AP Photo/Bob Daugherty, File
CREDIT: AP Photo/Bob Daugherty, File

Speaking at a rally in Manheim, Pennsylvania on Saturday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump offered vague concerns about “bad stories” in “certain areas” where efforts to rig the election could take place. Though the overtly racist candidate was circumspect about what his supporters should do in these “certain areas,” he appeared to suggest that they should join together into roaming squads of vigilantes.

You’ve got to go out. You’ve got to go out. And you’ve got to get your friends. And you’ve got to get everyone you know. And you got to watch your polling booths, because I hear too many stories about Pennsylvania. Certain areas. I hear too many bad stories, and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about.

So go and vote, and then go check out areas. Because a lot of bad things happen. And we don’t want to lose for that reason. We don’t want to lose, but we especially we don’t want to lose for that reason. So go over and — watch. And watch carefully.

America has a long and unfortunate history of angry white mobs traveling to predominantly African American polling places in order to intimidate voters. The Ku Klux Klan started using this tactic not long after the Civil War.

Even if Trump’s supporters do not continue this legacy of intimidation on Election Day, however, Trump’s vague allusions to rigged elections plays into a much broader strategy embraced by the Republican Party in recent elections. In August, for example, Trump claimed that the election “is going to be rigged,” citing a string of court decisions invalidating voter suppression laws in a few states.

“I don’t like what’s going on with voter ID,” Trump added. “I mean the voter ID situation has turned out to be a very unfair development. We may have people vote 10 times.”

Voter ID is one of the most common forms of voter suppression embraced by Republican lawmakers in recent years. Though these laws are often justified as necessary to combat voter fraud, as Trump attempts to do, the kind of fraud prevented by these laws — voter impersonation at the polls — barely exists. To cite just one of numerous investigations confirming this fact, Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State conducted a two-year investigation into voter fraud. He uncovered zero cases of voter impersonation at the polls.

What voter ID does accomplish, however, is it shifts the overall electorate rightward. Indeed, one study determined that that “Democratic turnout drops by an estimated 8.8 percentage points in general elections when strict photo identification laws are in place,” compared to 3.6 percentage points for Republicans.

Yet, while Trump and other Republicans’ claims about widespread voter fraud are false, they have succeeded in ginning up fears that this election may not have a legitimate result. Polls show that a significant minority of the country does not believe that November’s election results will be reliable.

Meanwhile, Trump himself suggested on Friday that he may continue to fan these flames even if he loses in November. After interviewers from the New York Times asked Trump whether he was “rethinking his statement at their last debate that he would ‘absolutely’ support her if she won in November,” Trump responded “We’re going to have to see. We’re going to see what happens. We’re going to have to see.”

(HT: Emma Roller)