Election Day is Tuesday, and the 2016 election promises to be one for the record books. More Americans than ever are concerned about the prospect of voter fraud, voter intimidation, or worse, and there’s a very real possibility that voters may be intimidated at the polls by supporters of a candidate they don’t support.
In this post, we’ll talk a bit about these issues and talk about what to do should you notice, or be a part of, something suspicious happening at the polls.
Resist The Urge To Take It Upon Yourself To Act As An Election Monitor
By now, you may have heard that Republican candidate Donald Trump is recruiting Americans to serve as unofficial “poll watchers” in order to maintain the sanctity of the election, according to Slate. If you’re a Trump supporter, you may be tempted to take your candidate up on his request. On the other hand, if you’re a Clinton supporter, you may be tempted to sign up as a “poll watcher” to watch the poll watchers.
Don’t do that.
The Department of Justice has dispatched poll watchers to 28 states, according to CBS News. Those poll watchers are trained, and more importantly, they have a mandate and a legal right to be there, according to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
“As always, our personnel will perform these duties impartially, with one goal in mind: to see to it that every eligible voter can participate in our elections to the full extent that federal law provides.The department is deeply committed to the fair and unbiased application of our voting rights laws and we will work tirelessly to ensure that every eligible person that wants to do so is able to cast a ballot.”
The last thing Americans need at the ballot boxes is partisan individuals poking around the polling place, asking questions and making a nuisance of themselves.
What Is Voter Fraud And How Big Of A Problem Is It?
According to Ballotpedia, voter fraud can take many forms, including (but not limited to) voting on behalf of the dead, claiming to be someone else when voting; submitting fraudulent voter registration, casting more than one ballot in the same election (ballot stuffing), and fraud by election judges such as throwing out votes or casting votes on behalf of voters.
How big of a problem is voter fraud? That depends largely on whom you ask. In a general sense, conservative politicians and voters are generally of the opinion that voter fraud is a widespread problem. If not a widespread problem, it’s still a large enough problem that it needs to be addressed — through such things as voter I.D. laws, for example. On the other hand, the Brennan Center for Justice reports that voter fraud is actually exceptionally rare.
What Is Voter Intimidation And How Big Of A Problem Is It?
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), voter intimidation can take on many forms, including (but not limited to) “aggressively” questioning voters about their eligibility to vote; pretending to be an election official or providing inaccurate or misleading information about the requirements to vote (such as being required to speak English).
Unlike voter fraud, however, there’s little ambiguity about voter intimidation; even the ACLU agrees that it’s “rare and unlikely.” However, with Donald Trump already encouraging his supporters to watch the polls and some Clinton supporters promising to respond in kind, there’s a very real possibility that some American voters may witness intimidation at the polls.
What Should I Do If I Experience Or Witness Voter Fraud Or Voter Intimidation?
You have several options, as it turns out. The first thing you should do is bring the matter to the official election judge working the polls. Failing that, both the ACLU and the Federal Election Commission recommend contacting your state’s election office (you can find that information here).
If you witness voter fraud or voter intimidation, you can call the Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE or the U.S. Department of Justice Voting Rights Hotline at 800-253-3931.
[Featured Image by Burlingham/Shutterstock]