Federal judge hears voter intimidation arguments

Federal judge hears voter intimidation arguments

The Michigan Democratic Party on Friday filed a lawsuit against Republican Donald Trump's campaign, a preemptive strike against what party leaders worry will be Election Day efforts by the candidate's supporters to disrupt voters in heavily minority precincts. The Democrats would like to see a consent decree prohibiting the Republicans from engaging in such activity extended for another eight years.

Attorneys representing the Democratic Party argued Friday in New Jersey court that the GOP was coordinating with Trump to intimidate voters, accusations that the Republican Party says are not true in that state or in five other states where Democrats are waging similar battles.

In Ohio, a federal judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order against Trump's campaign and his friend and informal adviser, Roger Stone, barring them from harassing or intimidating Ohio voters during Tuesday's election.

The lawsuit claims that Trump and his supporters, along with the Michigan Republican Party, plan to "threaten, intimidate and thereby prevent" minorities in urban neighborhoods from voting in Tuesday's historic election. Republicans also fought back against charges of wrongdoing in Arizona on Thursday, while arguments will be heard on Friday in OH and in Pennsylvania on Monday.

Democrats in Nevada alleged that Trump supporters have yelled at voters and tried to block them from entering early-voting sites, while civil-rights groups in North Carolina and Texas said they have received reports of intimidating behavior at early voting sites.

The RNC admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to the decree to settle the case.

FESSLER: That's presidential nominee Donald Trump urging supporters to monitor the polls in, quote, "certain areas" of Pennsylvania - widely interpreted to mean Philadelphia, where Republicans have long suspected voter fraud. "Trump's calls for unlawful intimidation have grown louder and louder, and the conspiracy to harass and threaten voters on Election Day already has resulted in numerous acts that threaten the voting rights of registered MI voters", the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court states.

The RNC denies all of that, pointing out that campaign manager Kellyanne Conway later said she was mistaken and Pence also said he had no knowledge of any effort between the campaign and the RNC to ensure ballot integrity. The lawsuit cited comments made by Trump and his surrogates about voter fraud and efforts by Democrats to steal the election.

The RNC says it has made complying with the consent decree a "top priority".

"The RNC has ... never authorized the Trump campaign to act on its behalf". "The RNC has repeatedly informed its staff and the Trump campaign that neither Donald Trump nor his campaign speaks or acts on behalf of the RNC".

A federal judge said Friday in issuing a temporary restraining order against Trump's campaign and his friend Roger Stone that anyone who engaged in intimidation or harassment inside or near OH polling places would face contempt of court charges. State and federal laws already bar intimidation and the Democrats are asking for orders that would unconstitutionally bar protected political speech, they've argued in court documents.

The lawsuit cites an August rally in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where Trump called on his supporters to "not just vote" on November 8, but also "go around and look and watch other polling places and make sure that it's 100 percent fine". Rick Hasen, a law professor from the University of California, Irvine, says that's one of the things a federal judge in New Jersey has to decide.

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