Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Court Order Barring Voter Intimidation by RNC Set to Expire

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Court Order Barring Voter Intimidation by RNC Set to Expire

Article excerpt

A 35-year-old federal court order prohibiting the Republican National Committee from engaging in voter verification and other "ballot security" measures is set to expire Friday, something the GOP says is long overdue but voting rights advocates argue is still needed to prevent intimidation at the polls.

Lawyers for the Republican National Committee said in court filings that the organization had been in compliance for years, even going beyond what is outlined in the consent decree. It opts against participating in poll-watching activities, for example, even though they are allowed under the order.

"The RNC has worked hard to comply with its obligations under the Consent Decree," lawyers wrote in documents filed with the court.

The filing noted efforts to educate members, employees, contractors and volunteers about the requirements under the order and specifically directing members that RNC resources cannot be used on prohibited activities.

But critics say the landscape of voting rights has shifted under President Donald Trump, a Republican who continues to promote unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud during the 2016 campaign and has launched a presidential advisory commission to investigate. Trump lost the popular vote by about 2.8 million votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

They note that Trump has installed leaders at the U.S. Department of Justice who are more supportive of state efforts to implement voting restrictions such as strict photo ID requirements. During the campaign, civil rights groups supporting the court order expressed alarm that Trump, at one point, urged his supporters to monitor polling places on Election Day in an effort to detect fraud.

"I fear that if the consent decree is not left in place we may see a resurgence of this kind of activity at the polls on Election Day," said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "Challenging voter eligibility is an old and familiar tactic used to intimidate and depress voter turnout, particularly among minority voters. …

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