GOP-Backed Poll-Watching Measure Sparks Voter Intimidation Fears In Pennsylvania

Bill would allow poll watchers from outside the district.
Will outside poll-watchers intimidate voters by raising constant challenges?
Will outside poll-watchers intimidate voters by raising constant challenges?

Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania are trying to quickly push through a measure to would allow people from outside a voting district to watch over voters

The bill would take effect in time for this year’s presidential election in a state where Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed he will be the victim of voter fraud. He has provided no evidence to back that accusation. 

Raging Chicken Press, a progressive website focused on Pennsylvania politics, reported that the bill was being swiftly pushed through the state’s GOP-controlled House of Representatives. The bill would “allow Trump supporters from around the state to ‘watch’ over the polls in minority communities throughout the state,” the website noted. 

On Wednesday, the bill was sent to the state’s appropriations committee to determine how much it would cost to implement.

Pennsylvania Democrats warned that the measure could lead to voter intimidation.

Poll watchers can intimidate voters by raising constant challenges at polling places, ProPublica reported.

“There’s actually a risk that, in a more disorganized way, people are going to be showing up to the polls, they won’t know the law, and they’ll be engaging in discriminatory challenges,” Adam Gitlin, counsel for the Democracy Program of New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, told ProPublica. “That can create the potential for a lot of disruption, longer lines because each voter takes longer to vote and potentially discouraging and intimidating voters from coming to the polls.”

Trump and his supporters have repeatedly made allegations of voter fraud and called for volunteers to “Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election!”  

The only way we can lose, in my opinion, I really mean this, Pennsylvania, is if cheating goes on,” Trump claimed last month, despite being consistently behind in the polls there. 

The current HuffPollster model has him down 6 points in the Keystone State, which hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since George H.W. Bush in 1988. 

Advancement Project, a civil rights organization, has published a guide explaining what poll watchers are allowed to do ― and what they’re not allowed to do ― in Pennsylvania, which is available here.

“If you are challenged on Election Day, do NOT leave without voting. At the very least, vote a provisional ballot.”

On Wednesday, the bill was sent to the state’s appropriations committee to determine how much it will cost the state to implement.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.