The Donald Trump team faces a setback in Ohio as a federal judge has ruled against them in a lawsuit brought by the Ohio Democratic Party. The suit alleged that members of the Donald Trump campaign were planning events at polling locations on election day, November 8, to intimidate voters and keep them from casting ballots that would oppose Donald Trump. Very similar lawsuits have been filed in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Michigan.
The Ohio lawsuit cites Donald Trump’s propensity for encouraging his supporters to monitor their local polling places for attempts by agents of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, to influence or “steal” the election.
“I hope you people can…not just vote on the 8th, [but] go around and look and watch other polling places and make sure that it’s 100 percent fine,” Donald Trump said at a rally in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
Donald Trump has repeatedly, in the last weeks, suggested that Hillary Clinton and her campaign were attempting to illegally influence the election in her favor. Trump’s claims do seem to resonate with many voters, as reported by ABC News. The electorate, perhaps remembering the many allegations of election irregularity during the Democratic Party primary processes, such as incidents in Nevada and in New York City, is wary of Clinton and receptive to Trump’s message. Many view Trump as a political outsider, while Clinton cannot be described as anything but a Washington insider. Still, Trump’s claims are often vague, and lack any concrete accusation. Mother Jones quotes one such example from a rally in Akron, in the relevant state of Ohio.
“And when I say ‘watch,'” Trump said during his speech, “you know what I’m talking about right? You know what I’m talking about.”
It isn’t actually clear what Donald Trump is talking about in this quote, which leaves the statement open to interpretation from his supporters. The Ohio lawsuit was brought for this reason, as the Ohio Democratic Party believes that this and other comments from Trump can be interpreted as a call to voter harassment and intimidation on the day of the election.
The Donald Trump restraining order ruling was handed down by Judge James Gwin, who is the presiding judge of the U.S. district court for the Northern District of Ohio, early Friday. According to CNN, the Gwin ruling attempts to prevent a number of activities that could be considered interference in the election.
“Hindering or delaying a voter or prospective voter from reaching or leaving the polling place,” the ruling states, “unauthorized ‘poll watching’… challenging or questioning voters or prospective voters about their eligibility to vote, or training, organizing, or directing others to do the same… interrogating, admonishing, interfering with, or verbally harassing voters or prospective voters.”
It should be noted that the Gwin ruling does not only apply to the Trump campaign, but to the campaign of Hillary Clinton as well. Despite this, the Trump campaign is still resistant to this move, and the inclusion of the Clinton camp will likely do little to soothe the perception among his supporters that he is being targeted.
The ruling “literally imposes a comprehensive election code the court will apparently continue to invent on the fly,” the Trump campaign later said. “Intimidating voters is illegal, and the campaign does not remotely condone such conduct.”
The suit also restricts implicitly Republican operative and Donald Trump supporter Roger Stone and his group Stop The Steal. Stop The Steal, according to their website, is composed of a group of citizen activists who “will be volunteering at their own local polling stations in order to cover the issues that are influencing our lives and the direction of the current political campaigns.”
This would seem to be counter to the ruling, and is surely exactly the sort of activity that the suit was brought to prevent in the first place. Despite this, judges in other states have rejected similar suits, and the campaign of Donald Trump has appealed the decision to higher courts.
[Featured Image by Evan Vucci/AP Images]