Divert, Delay, Dissuade

I saw this coming. In fact, I have warned of it before in this column. On Monday Trump’s hand picked RNC Chair, Ronna McDaniel, (she dropped the Romney middle name when Trump became uncomfortable with it despite her blood relation to Mitt Romney) told Breitbart News that the Republican party had recruited over 45,000 poll watchers in battleground states for the 2022 elections. This has nothing to do with the advertised integrity and everything to do with voter intimidation and other undemocratic intents.

This is coupled with reports that many state and local elections boards have recently been overwhelmed with information requests about the 2020 election. Yes, you read that correctly; about the election that was held almost 2 years ago. Many election workers were confused as to the information requested and when they asked for clarification the requesters told them they had no idea either and were just following instructions. This is obviously a coordinated tactic timed to tie up limited resources on a wild goose chase when they are needed to prepare for the upcoming 2022 elections. Many of those elected in 2020 are in the waning days of their two-year term and many of the bodies they serve in are already in recess or will be shortly. Even if irregularities were found the clock has basically already run out.

Now more specifically to the “poll watchers”. Legitimate poll watchers serve a purpose. They provide eyes at the scene to ensure that the process is fair and can convey that to the masses. In full disclosure I have served as a poll watcher in the past. (I never challenged a single voter nor noted an election official – Republican or Democrat – violating election laws. With honest people of integrity, the system works well.) In large part these will not be poll watchers but poll interrupters. They will try to challenge likely Democratic voters gumming up the works and creating long lines. In large part they will determine likely Democratic voters by the color of their skin.

In many states the old law was that a poll watcher had to reside in the county where they served as a such. That is no longer the case in many states. The Republicans will be importing people from out of the county into very solid blue counties with largely non-white populations. They will make repeated and largely baseless challenges. Even if those challenges don’t hold up – and few will – they will have slowed down the lines to the point that many people will leave for a variety of reasons, (i.e. need to get to work or pick up the kids from school). That will depress turnout in Democratic leaning precincts and that is their true goal.

How many people will turn away when they see the long line without even entering it? When the word spreads in the community of “trouble at the polls” how many will just stay home? Voter suppression is the goal of the GOP. Targeted voter suppression is even better for them.

Now we come to states that are open carry. I live in one and it’s a battleground where turnout will play a huge role in determining the winner of the U.S. Senate race and with it possibly control of the next Senate. While they won’t be official poll watchers and will be outside the polling place what effect do you think a couple of armed rednecks will have on voter turnout? That will be a clear (but legal) case of voter intimidation. Don’t think it will happen? Let me remind you of armed “spectators” looking down on legislators from the balcony of the Michigan legislative chambers in the recent past. As to law enforcement: first off open carry laws are a problem and secondly too many of them are right wing sympathizers (at best) so don’t expect much, if any, help from them.

Much of this activity will be aimed at majority Black precincts. Even in cities like Buffalo and Cleveland majority Black precincts have the oldest and most likely to break down voting machines. That alone causes delays. In the south many, in particular older, Black voters still remember the Jim Crow and White Citizens’ Council days when if observed voting while Black on a Tuesday your job often disappeared on Wednesday. I had to deal with that specific fear as recently as in the 2012 election in North Carolina. I haven’t been with the organized Party since, but I bet it still exists to a degree.

Cell phones with cameras and video capabilities are ubiquitous these days. In the absence of guns what effect do you think someone with a cell phone aimed at the line will have on voter turnout?

Early voting, where allowed, will be the best counter to the intimidation tactics. That takes a lot of organizing activity. Souls to the polls has been effective which is why Sunday early voting is a particular target of the Republicans. That and other early voting takes a heck of a lot of organizing effort! I know, I’ve been there. Regardless of how diligently organizers work some voters slip through the “early voting cracks”. Why should democracy be at a disadvantage in a supposedly democratic election?

Divert, delay and dissuade: that is the 3 D 2022 GOP Election Day strategy.  Oh, and we haven’t even gotten into the post-Election Day strategy of voter nullification.

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One thought on “Divert, Delay, Dissuade”

  1. I think Kansas may have shown us that voters will not tolerate intimidation as much as we fear. Let’s hope.

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