Donald Trump recently tweeted: “Volunteer to be a Trump Election Poll Watcher. Sign up today! #MakeAmericaGreatAgain”
The tweet also included a link to a website, “Army for Trump.” Among the various duties the unsuspecting visitor can sign up for at Army For Trump include digital activist, phone bank worker, door knocker, voter registration worker, meet-up host, bundler, and team leader. Far down the list — the very last volunteer job listed, in fact — is included the innocent-sounding “Election Day Team.”
If you click ”Election Day Team” you will drill down to this revealing paragraph: “As a member of our Election Day Team, you will assist Team Trump and grassroots operations across the country on Election Day 2020. Our Election Day Team primarily focuses on Getting Out the Vote (GOTV) to ensure any voters who did not vote early vote on election day. Depending on the state, volunteers may be involved in other Election Day activities such as precinct coverage.”
Notice the last two words in the paragraph, “precinct coverage.” Those are the two words Trump is most interested in, judging from the intent of his tweet. Those are the words that pertain to being a poll watcher, as he mentions in that tweet. In other words, Trump is recruiting thugs by dog whistle. He wants his people to show up at polls and intimidate would-be voters for Joe Biden.
It’s interesting, don’t you think, that the last sentence on the last job on the list is really the whole point of Trump’s tweet? That’s how frightened he is he’ll get caught doing what he’s clearly doing, trying feebly to recruit thugs to save him from losing, because that’s exactly what he’s doing — losing.
Lest you think I’m being excessively paranoid here, it might be handy to include the Merriam-Webster definition of “poll watcher”: a person assigned (as by a political party or candidate) to observe activities at a polling place to guard against illegal voting, fraudulent counting of ballots, and other violations of election laws.
Some states have stringent laws against such activity. Electioneering within a certain distance of a polling place is illegal in New Jersey, for example, where I lived for a time. Notice that the website “Army For Trump” is careful to say you can engage in such activity, “Depending on the state.” In other words, you have as much latitude to exercise intimidation and thuggery as any given state allows.
“Guarding against voter fraud” was how Nazi Germany, the former Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin and other practitioners of demagoguery rigged elections. Today it’s strictly the stuff of third world and tinpot dictatorship malfeasance. That the president of the United States should be calling upon citizens to perform such acts is nothing short of disgraceful, and justly illegal in many states.
If you’re going to vote in person on Election Day and you are in doubt about what the law says pertaining to poll watchers and challengers in your state, you may consult this link.
If you observe persons at polls conducting themselves unlawfully at or near your polling place, I strongly encourage you to get to a safe place (after voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, of course) and notify the police about the activity. If it can be proved later that Trump incited the more stupid and rabid members of his base to election fraud, it will only add to the number of criminal charges against him and and the number of years he spends in prison once he ceases pretending to be president. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.