Trump’s Poll Watchers Are More Likely to Do Harm Than Good

Donald Trump, Poll observers
Words matter Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0) See complete attribution below.

On the morning of November 8, “Jerome Blackman,” from a ghetto in Philadelphia, shows up at his polling place to cast a vote for Hillary Clinton. The presidential race is tight and everybody knows that it will be decided by Pennsylvania.

Blackman, a welfare recipient who clearly does not want America to be great again, is aware of the importance of every single vote and lines up to cast a second ballot — this one in the name of his cousin who is doing eight months for assaulting a police officer during a Black Lives Matter protest.

However, before he can vote for Clinton again, a heroic poll watcher realizes what is going on. The volunteer, who followed Donald Trump’s call to carefully monitor the Pennsylvania election, calls out Blackman:

“Excuse me sir. I already saw you vote once. I hope you know it is a crime to vote multiple times.”

Blackman flees, Donald Trump wins Pennsylvania by one vote and America becomes great again.

That might be the type of scenario Trump envisioned when he said at a rally in Pennsylvania — where he was trailing by 10 points at the time — that he would only lose the state if the election were rigged.

“I hope you people can sort of not just vote on the eighth [but] go around and look and watch other polling places and make sure that it’s 100 percent fine,” Trump said.

“We’re going to watch Pennsylvania. Go down to certain areas and watch and study, make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times.”

That scenario, however, is as ridiculous as it is unlikely. The type of in-person voter fraud Trump describes is incredibly rare. One comprehensive study of the “problem” found 31 possible cases out of 1 billion votes cast.

Traditionally, poll watchers — those dispatched by campaigns, as well as neutral observers — serve a very useful function. They make sure polling places run smoothly and report back when there are problems. For example, they ensure that voters comply with laws prohibiting electioneering near a polling place.

Perhaps their most important function, however, is preventing voter intimidation.

However, what Trump seems to be proposing is the opposite of that. Large numbers of his poll watchers “going around and watching other polling places” in “certain areas” sounds more like a mob of Trump supporters, who are predominantly white, going into neighborhoods that are not.

Hyperbole? Hardly.

“Trump’s call to action is now being promoted by white supremacists on Stormfront, the world’s leading neo-Nazi website, something that’s not particularly surprising given how Trump has been embraced by the likes of David Duke,” wrote Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, in response to Trump’s speech.

And how, exactly, would they determine if somebody has voted multiple times (and it cannot be stressed enough that this happens close to never)? Are these Trumpilantes going to quiz voters and carry lists? Because that is exactly the type of behavior real poll watchers are supposed to look out for. And, as WhoWhatWhy has reported, the real poll watchers are highly concerned about the upcoming election.

It must also be noted that poll watchers are subject to stringent rules that differ from state to state. The rules detail everything from how many poll watchers a campaign can have at a site to what these poll watchers are allowed to do.

In many places, for example, they are not allowed to speak to voters. And while the website of the GOP nominee has a page that allows people to sign up for this position, the Trump campaign has a poor track record of doing the organizational things a normal campaign does. There is no guarantee that any type of instruction or training will be provided to these volunteers.

As a result, the group most likely to run afoul of the law on Election Day will not be people committing in-person voter fraud — it will be Trump supporters who show up to combat a threat as real as the fictitious Jerome Blackman.

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The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these Creative Commons licensed images: Donald Trump (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0), marchers (Rae Allen / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), rifles (Teknorat / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0)  and flags (Elvert Barnes / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0).


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from marchers (Rae Allen / Flickr – CC BY 2.0) and flags (Elvert Barnes / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0)

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13 responses to “Trump’s Poll Watchers Are More Likely to Do Harm Than Good”

  1. Wilson Brian says:

    Sure….yeh….right…it will do more harm….unhuh……Donald Trump is going to win because the Democrats won’t be able to cheat….and the liberal press is whining it could do more harm. Hard to believe……….ROFLMAO!

  2. JayGoldenBeach says:

    Here in Florida, absentee ballots have been found to swing enough votes to change an election. Absentee ballot “brokers” (aka ballot harvesters) are problematic.

    The allegedly-elected current governor Rick Scott was discovered to have made at least one payment to a ballot broker in his first campaign . . .

  3. Wulver says:

    In a court of law, evidence that does not have a clear “chain” of possession is thrown out. With electronic voting machines, there is no proper chain. Why not return to hand counts?

  4. Canada First says:

    In Florida it is against the law to register to vote using an address you’ve never lived in. Yet Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon, who does not live in Florida, is registered to vote in Florida at an address which he’s never lived at. Why would Bannon register to vote in a swing state in which he does not reside? Why does Mr. Trump put dishonest people like Bannon in charge of his campaign?

  5. Mackenzie says:

    I’m far more concerned about electronic voting machines (formerly Diebold but they changed their name to “Premier Election Solutions” due to bad publicity) but I’m still baffled that requiring an ID is considered “racism”. If so, then why aren’t there protests about minorities being able to board an airplane?

  6. Rodney says:

    The whole point is to deter voter fraud. Someone getting paid $10 an hour to vote multiple times is less likely to do it if they think they may get caught.
    I was a Democrat Precinct Committeeman in 1992 and 1996 in the state of Indiana. I was trained early on to watch out for school busses showing up full of voters. Of course back then I was watching out for the Republicans cheating. A Republican judge passed away and the new home owner found an attic full of un-counted ballots.
    Voter fraud has been perpetrated on both sides for a long time. An honest person just can’t picture themselves doing it. When money, power and greed get involved criminals do not bat an eye.

    • JayGoldenBeach says:

      Uncounted ballots in an attic sounds like election fraud.

    • Virginia Martin says:

      I’d like to know where people are getting paid anything to vote multiple times. I don’t think it’s happening.

    • Rodney says:

      Just Google: “Busses filled with people to vote multiple of times”. You will get articles from The NY Times and many other mainstream publications. I worked in politics for eight years until I couldn’t stomach it anymore. Believe me, it happens more than anyone wants to admit. It really can sway local and state elections.

    • Virginia Martin says:

      You lost me there. Did you read the articles? The NY Times article begins “It might as well be Harry Potter’s invisible Knight Bus, because no-one can prove it exists.” And it goes on to say that the notion of such a bus is a fiction. Is that your point, that voter fraud does not exist?

    • Rodney says:

      You are a Democratic Election Commissioner from the State of New York. You know you are cherry picking the articles. You above anyone knows there is plenty of election fraud going on.

    • Virginia Martin says:

      The articles I saw per your instruction to Google (the article I cited was the first one on the list) say they can’t find evidence of voter fraud. Election fraud is something else.

    • Rodney says:

      Did you notice James O’Keefe the Democratic Commisioner of the Board of Elections for New York City was caught on tape? He admitted Democrats fill busses to go around and cast fraudulent votes. I guess it does happen after all. Kind of hard to argue when it’s caught on tape. Of course you will say it was out of context and just another right wing conspiracy theory. When caught always deny, pivot, deny. That’s what they taught me when I was a young Democratic Committeeman.

    • Virginia Martin says:

      I think you have your names mixed up. Yes, I saw the tape. The commissioner didn’t say that Democrats fill busses, although that may be what he meant. Certainly it’s fine to bus people to the polls, and possibly that’s what he meant by “bus people around,” but probably not. I thought it was pretty bizarre.