On Tuesday, a federal judge allowed a court settlement to expire that prohibited the Republican National Committee from challenging voters at the polls. The ruling now opens things back up and once again the RNC will be able to use underhanded tactics to suppress voters like purging voting rolls and intimidation tactics.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
The original settlement came about back in the 1980s. During a campaign for governor in New Jersey, the RNC launched a “Ballot Security Task Force.” The task force sent out sample ballots to voters in predominately African American and Latino neighborhoods.
45,000 of those ballots were undeliverable, and Republicans attempted to have those voters removed from the rolls. Then, the RNC hired off-duty police officers to patrol polling places to make sure those voters didn’t attempt to vote. Armed officers were standing around with signs that read,
“Warning: This area is being patrolled by the National Ballot Security Task Force. It is a crime to falsify a ballot or to violate election laws.”
As a result, Republican Tom Kean Sr. defeated his opponent, Democrat Jim Florio, by only 1,797 votes. It was the closest Governor’s race in New Jersey’s history.
The Democratic National Committee obtained the court settlement in question as a result of this case in New Jersey. The court ruled that the RNC must “refrain from undertaking any ballot security activities,” anywhere in the country.
That court settlement has now been allowed to expire, and for Republicans, that means “game on” once again.
The rule’s expiration would have passed quietly were it not for the shenanigans of the 2016 election. DNC lawyers challenged the expiration of the order, pointing out several glaring examples of the RNC’s violation of the decree.
For instance, Sean Spicer visited the fifth floor of Trump tower on election day. The Trump campaign was set up on that floor running poll-monitoring operations. There were signs posted on every doorway instructing RNC staff to stay away to avoid any violations of the settlement. Spicer didn’t care about that and bragged about his visit in an interview with GQ magazine.
Before the election, the DNC claimed that the RNC violated the rules as well when Trump’s campaign made a post on its website recruiting “Trump Election Observers,” to “Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election.” At his rallies, Trump called on his supporters to monitor the polls. Most of us have no problem recalling hearing him say that very thing. It was like a broken record.
Trump even specifically requested law enforcement officers to monitor the polls on election day, which harkened directly back to the original case in the 80s.
District Court Judge Michael Vazquez of New Jersey ruled against the Democrats, somehow. Thus the rule was allowed to expire. Ultimately, he concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to extend the rule.
Judge Vazquez told DNC lawyers that, “As far as what’s before this court, you’ve presented me with no evidence of actual voter suppression efforts on the day of the election, much less tying it to the RNC.” And later wrote in a court order that, “The DNC did not prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, a violation of the Consent Decree.”
Sadly, this court order was the only thing blocking Republicans from employing some of these underhanded tricks. The decree previously required Republicans to get court approval before dispatching many of those “ballot security” measures. They no longer need to do that.
It’s once again open season on voters for the RNC, and everyone knows by now that if they CAN get away with it, they sure are going to try.
Feature Image via Visual hunt