Trump’s Election-Rigging Rhetoric Inspiring Vigilante Poll-Watching Efforts

Politico today rounds up some of the vigilante poll-watching efforts that “white nationalist, alt-right and militia movement groups” are planning for Tuesday, mostly in African-American areas, fueled by Donald Trump’s claims that the election will be “rigged” against him:

Neo-Nazi leader Andrew Anglin plans to muster thousands of poll watchers across all 50 states. His partners at the alt-right website “the Right Stuff” are touting plans to set up hidden cameras at polling places in Philadelphia and hand out liquor and marijuana in the city’s “ghetto” on Election Day to induce residents to stay home. The National Socialist Movement, various factions of the Ku Klux Klan and the white nationalist American Freedom Party all are deploying members to watch polls, either “informally” or, they say, through the Trump campaign.

The Oath Keepers, a group of former law enforcement and military members that often shows up in public heavily armed, is advising members to go undercover and conduct “intelligence-gathering” at polling places, and Donald Trump ally Roger Stone is organizing his own exit polling, aiming to monitor thousands of precincts across the country.

Energized by Trump’s candidacy and alarmed by his warnings of a “rigged election,” white nationalist, alt-right and militia movement groups are planning to come out in full force on Tuesday, creating the potential for conflict at the close of an already turbulent campaign season.

“The possibility of violence on or around Election Day is very real,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Donald Trump has been telling his supporters for weeks and weeks and weeks now that they are about to have the election stolen from them by evil forces on behalf of the elites.”

And Louisiana Senate candidate David Duke — a former KKK grand wizard who supports Trump but was disavowed by the New York businessman in February after some hesitation in a CNN interview — said his supporters plan to monitor polls with an eye toward “some of the more inner-city areas” that he said exhibited suspicious voting patterns in the state’s 1991 governor’s race.

This didn’t come out of nowhere. The Republican Party has for years been attempting to justify voters suppression schemes by claiming that mass voter fraud is swinging elections for Democrats; the subtext of this is often that this voter fraud is happening at the hands of people of color and immigrants. Trump just made it explicit when he urged his supporters to go out and become poll watchers in “other communities” that might try to rig the election against him. It’s no wonder that this message appeals to racist groups and to the conspiratorial mindset behind the right-wing militia movement.

The Texas-based Tea Party group True the Vote already has an independent poll-watching operation set up that has in past years been accused of intimidating voters. True the Vote promotes a steady stream of conspiracy theories about widespread election fraud, recently warning that a “flood of illegal voters” could swing the 2016 election and has told its members to look out for polling places staying open late as evidence of “fraud.”