Friday, October 28, 2016

Will Trump's vigilante poll watchers sink the RNC?

Here's the background for this:   In the 1981 election, the Democratic National Committee (DNCsued the Republican National Committee (RNC) for voter intimidation.   In New Jersey, they had a program of aggressive "poll watchers" who were ostensibly there to ensure "ballot security."  In fact, they had arm bands, many were off-duty police or security officers, lending an air of officialdom.   They would aggressively question people standing in line, challenge their eligibility to vote.   There was good evidence that this had been a coordinated effort at voter suppression, with printed signs offering a cash reward for anyone who turned in an actual case of voter fraud.   The phone number listed led to the RNC headquarters.

The result of the court challenge from the DNC was that the RNC entered into a consent decree, which restricted the RNC from doing any election day poll monitoring -- and that is exactly what Donald Trump has been urging his crowds to do.    They briefly even had a web site where anyone could print out an official looking "badge," with their name, and an arm band.

What they are encouraging clearly would violate the RNC's consent decree, which is still in effect 35 years later but is set to expire in December 2016 -- which the RNC naturally is eager to have lifted.   If the DNC can show that the RNC has violated this decree, it could extend the restriction for as much as another eight years.

So, the question has become:   Can the RNC convince the court that it is not involved in this effort, even though its nominee for the head of the ticket is clear on multiple video tapes actively exhorting his crowds to do this?    Even saying, "Go and watch . . . and you know what I mean."  Would it take the RNC disavowing its own candidate, telling the court -- we have nothing to do with his campaign?   Well, they're trying.

This story just broke on Wednesday, when the DNC filed the court papers.  So far the RNC has issued this statement:

“The RNC strictly abides by the consent decree and does not take part directly or indirectly in any efforts to prevent or remedy vote fraud.  Nor do we coordinate with the Trump campaign or any other campaign or party organization in any efforts they may make in this area. . . . The RNC remains focused on getting out the vote.”

Big questions.    If Trump loses decisively, as is almost certain from all predictions not coming from the Trump campaign itself, it may be moot for the outcome of the election.  But if the court finds the RNC has violated its consent decree, it will make a lot of difference to the RNC going forward.

So, what's it going to be, folks?    Just one more way that Donald Trump has virtually destroyed a party that already had big cracks and was taking on too much water to stay afloat.   Trump may have just pulled the plug to finish it off.


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