Should Blacks be concerned about “Voter Intimidation?”
By Cash Michaels
Last week during the fiery presidential debate between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump, when asked if he would concede if he lost the November 3rd Election, said only if it was fair.
Then he called on his followers to go to the polls to watch to make sure that the balloting was fair.
Given that minutes earlier, Trump had also called on the violent white supremacist group the Proud Boys to “Stand back and stand by,” many interpreted his combined message of Trump poll watchers and violent white supremacists to “Stand back and stand by” to be a clear signal that intimidation was on its way to the polls in key battleground states like North Carolina.
Early last month during a rally in Winston-Salem, Trump called on his rabid crowd to, “Watch those ballots. I don't like it. You know, you have a Democrat governor, you have all these Democrats watching that stuff. I don't like it. Be poll watchers when you go there. Watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing they do. Because this is important. We win North Carolina, we win."
Like other states, North Carolina legally allows poll watching, and has a law that properly indicates exactly how each political party is to coordinate the practice.
But most political observers fear what Trump is calling for is vigilante poll watching by his supporters, and baiting them to disrupt and intimidate at voting places, like what a group of Trump supporters did on Sept. 20th when they held a rally waving flags and chanting near a line of voters in Fairfax, Va.
Can that, or something like it, happen in North Carolina?
Indeed, years before Trump became president, there were stories of Republican operatives challenging Black voters standing on line to vote, forcing them to leave the line to prove to the polling chief judge that they were properly registered to vote in that district.
Such challenges usually proved to be toothless, but they did hold up long lines, and intimidate other Black voters who did not want to be challenged publicly to leave the line before they casted they ballots.
And, of course, there were the infamous “Ballot Security” post cards sent to Black Democrats across the state by the NC Republican Party during the 1990 Senate election between Republican Senator Jesse Helms and then Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt.
Those cards threatened Black Democratic voters that if they voted outside of their registered precincts, that they could be prosecuted.
State officials have already had to deal with Trump telling North Carolina voters at the start of mail-in voting on Sept. 4th that they should vote twice, which is illegal in the state and would not only get your votes thrown out, but put you in jail.
And with early voting starting next week on Oct. 15th for two weeks, officials are bracing themselves for all kinds of intimidation tactics at the polls.
Fortunately, there are nonprofit organizations prepared to legally deal with any incidents that may occur.
At the polls, if you feel that you are being intimidated, notify an election official there immediately, says the NC Board of Elections. The chief judge at that polling place is empowered to call law enforcement to have anyone found to be intimidating voters arrested on the spot.
You can also report an incident where you think your voting rights have been violated to The Advancement Project, a Washington, DC-based civil rights group of attorneys at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683).
You can also call The American Center for Law and Justice at 1-800-274-8683.
If you can, try to document the voting rights violation or incident of voter intimidation on your smartphone for evidence. With all the controversy surrounding this election, officials warn to prepare for anything.