President Donald Trump wants to send law enforcement officials and U.S. attorneys to polling places to prevent voter fraud. Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that the 2020 presidential election will be "rigged" and has railed against mail-in voting. The president made his comments while his re-election campaign is planning to send thousands of election monitors to keep an eye on polling places.
While the Democratic National Convention was going on, Trump called into Sean Hannity's Fox News show, where Hannity asked the president if he would "have an ability" to monitor fraud. "We're going to have everything," Trump replied. "We're going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement. And we're going to have hopefully U.S. attorneys, and we're going to have everybody and attorney generals."
Trump says that on election day he's going to send law enforcement to polling locations pic.twitter.com/OpaYvUBY8P— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) August 21, 2020
However, there could be several legal challenges to what Trump is proposing. Several states ban law enforcement officials at the polls and federal law bans military officers from interfering in state elections. There is also a Department of Defense directive banning Defense personnel and National Guard members from holding "operations" at polling places, notes CNN. The president foes also not have the authority to order local sheriffs anywhere.
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign and the Republican Party are working on their largest-ever poll-watching operation in key battleground states, reports CNN. It is the first time since 1980 that a Republican presidential nominee and the RNC are working together on monitoring polling activity. There was a 1982 consent decree limiting Republican "ballot security" measures without judicial approval, but that expired in 2018. "Republicans will be ready to make sure the polls are being run correctly, securely, and transparently as we work to deliver the free and fair election Americans deserve," Trump campaign general counsel Matthew Morgan told CNN.
Poll-watching is common and done by both parties. The 1982 decree came after the Democratic National Committee sued the RNC for allegedly trying to suppress votes in New Jersey. They accused the party of several intimidation tactics, including using armed, off-duty police officers in neighborhoods with mostly Black and Latino neighborhoods. A federal judge allowed the decree to expire two years ago.
Although Trump and his supporters have said the November election will be "rigged" due to widespread voter fraud, there is no evidence that voter fraud is widespread. In 2014, the Washington Post did a study that found only 31 credible voter impersonation cases from 2000 to 2014 out of over 1 billion votes cast. The Brennan Center found incident rates of voter fraud between 0.00004 percent and 0.0009 percent. Research of the 2016 election also found only four documented cases of voter fraud.