Pa. Democrats Sue Trump Campaign, Republicans Over Alleged Voter Intimidation

Democrats from Pennsylvania and three other states filed lawsuits over what they term “voter suppression” tactics.

Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party has accused the Donald Trump campaign, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, and Trump advisor Roger J. Stone of threatening to intimidate voters in the state’s urban, minority-heavy neighborhoods.

A complaint filed yesterday by the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania alleges that Trump is seeking “to advance his campaign’s goal of ‘voter suppression’ by using the loudest microphone in the nation to implore his supporters to engage in unlawful intimidation at Pennsylvania polling places.”

State Democratic parties in Ohio, Nevada and Arizona have filed similar complaints. All of the suits use claims raised under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 that are intended to thwart voter intimidation.

The Pennsylvania lawsuit, similar to those of the other states, alleges that the state’s Republican parties are cooperating with efforts – like those of Stone’s Stop the Steal PAC – to “descend upon polling places in ‘certain areas’ where many minority voters live in order to interfere with their efforts to exercise the franchise.”

The lawsuit alleges that more than 150 people have signed up as “poll watchers” in Pennsylvania to employ various tactics, like livestreaming polling places and conducting “exit polls” on Election Day, to ensure that “cheating” doesn’t occur.

The lawsuit alleges that though Trump’s campaign is not officially responsible for “poll watching” organizations, the campaign has spurred such vigilantes to take action. The Republican presidential candidate has previously said that the only way he’ll lose the “vital state” of Pennsylvania is if “cheating goes on.” To stop “cheating,” he said, citizens should “go around and look and watch other polling places and make sure that it’s 100 percent fine.”

“We have to call up law enforcement,” Trump said during a speech in Altoona in August, according to the Washington Post. “And we have to have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching. We’re going to watch Pennsylvania. Go down to certain areas and watch and study, make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.”

Among others, Philadelphia journalist Solomon Jones took issue with Trump’s claims and calls to action in a piece published in NewsWorks:

“This rhetoric about “other people,” clothed in the false narrative of protecting the integrity of the vote, targets Democratic areas like Philadelphia where voters of color hold sway. By threatening to use police to monitor voters, Trump not only ignores the numerous studies proving that voter fraud is virtually nonexistent. He also resurrects the history that created the enmity between African Americans and law enforcement.”

Nine days ahead of Election Day, the Pennsylvania suit asks the Court to declare the “harassment or intimidation of voters at or outside the polls,” as well as so-called “exit polling” and “citizen journalist” initiatives, illegal. The lawsuit asks that the Court temporarily restrain such efforts through November 8th.

Lawyer and University of California professor Rick Hasen gives his take on the lawsuit via Election Law Blog:

“It is not clear that a court would issue a vague order to stop ‘voter intimidation,’ as requested in the relief in these suits (as that term would be vague and difficult to enforce). But the suits will first bring publicity to the activities, and second get these parties on record stating that they do not plan on engaging in voter intimidation, which itself could be useful in the event of problems on election day.”

Requests for comment from the Trump campaign and Stone were not immediately answered this afternoon.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.