Explainer: What "Ballot Watching" actually means
And then there is the possibility that self-appointed election observers will cause problems. Trump's messages are at odds with how the law actually works and can lead to questionable behavior by those who do not know what an official election observer is really doing.
Trump Campaign Assistant National Press Secretary Thea McDonald said: "President Trump's volunteer election observers are trained to ensure that all rules are applied equally, all valid ballots are counted, and all democratic violations are declared . ”
Trump's own Homeland Security analysts, however, rated white supremacists as the "most persistent and deadly threat in the homeland through 2021" and warned that "publicly accessible parts of physical electoral infrastructure" like polling stations could be "hot spots for potential violence". ”
Are there any protective measures?
For all the emerging rhetoric, the law is clear and voters should know that they are protected from this type of activity, which is already illegal in the United States. A new report from the Brennan Center details how intimidation and discrimination against voters are prohibited. Carrying guns openly in a polling station is illegal in most parts of the country.
The Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection in Georgetown Law is working to prevent private militias from operating near polling stations or election registration campaigns.
"It is so important that elected officials and law enforcement agencies make it clear that there is no second right of amendment to paramilitary activities."
"We think it is so important that elected officials and law enforcement agencies make it clear that there is no second right of amendment to paramilitary activity and that it is illegal in any state," said Jonathan Backer of Georgetown.
"It is so that these groups are prevented from showing up and engaging in this type of behavior, and that voters can get involved in the citizenship process without fear that these groups will show up and elected officials do nothing, to prevent this. ”
Voters shouldn't have to fear intimidation or violence on election day. Anyone who has problems should notify an election worker, call the non-partisan organization Protect the Vote, or call 911 on an emergency number.
What can you expect on election day?
The elections are already underway and things are largely going as planned. Election observers are a normal part of elections. Voter intimidation is not.
A key difference between today and 1981 is the level of attention. Election officials and poll workers actively seek out illegal intimidation near elections and are increasingly advocating that they will pursue attempts to intimidate voters.
It's also useful to remember that constituencies continued to prepare for issues in 2016 that are very similar to the issues feared today. These threats did not occur. The problem is real, but it shouldn't prevent anyone from voting in person or through the mail. Voters are protected by law.