By: Sophia Tesfaye, Salon
New federal lawsuits were filed in five different states Monday, alleging that thousands of Black voters are illegally being purged from voter registration lists by Republican officials and threatened with intimidation by the campaign of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Democratic officials in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada argue that the Trump campaign, led by notorious longtime advisor Roger Stone, is “conspiring to threaten, intimidate, and thereby prevent minority voters in urban neighborhoods from voting.”
Democratic officials are concerned that Stone’s pro-Trump voter intimidation group Stop the Steal, which is recruiting right-wing volunteers to conduct unscientific “exit polls” outside swing state precincts, could violate both the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed discriminatory voting practices in the American South, and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which outlawed intimidation against African American voters particularly.
The Guardian recently reported that the Trump-affiliated group plans to send volunteers to 600 different precincts in nine Democrat-leaning cities with large populations of black and Hispanic voters to act as so-called poll watchers.
This comes after the Democratic National Committee asked a federal judge in New Jersey last week to block the Republican Party from supporting efforts to discourage minorities from voting based on Trump’s baseless claims that the presidential election is “rigged.”
On the campaign trail, Trump has called for his supporters to “watch the polling booths” while speaking in places like Philadelphia. According to the DNC’s suit, the RNC is supporting Trump’s recruitment of so-called watchers at polling places, which is in breach of consent decrees going back to 1982 that forbid the group from engaging in such efforts.
And in North Carolina, where the Republican-led legislature recently passed voting restrictions that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit found “target[ed] African Americans with almost surgical precision,” the NAACP filed a lawsuit on Monday alleging that local elections boards have illegally purged thousands of Black voters from the registration lists as early voting is already underway in the state.
In the pivotal battleground state, any registered voter in the state can challenge another voter’s registration. And according to the historic civil rights group, Republicans in the state have taken up aggressive efforts to challenge the vote registration of thousands in heavily African-American parts of the state since the Supreme Court revoked the requirement for the state to submit all voting changes to the federal government for pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act in 2013.
The group’s lawsuit zeroes in on Cumberland, Moore and Beaufort counties, where thousands of voters’ names have been challenged.
The NAACP says Black voters comprise more than 65 percent of challenges in Beaufort county. In Moore County the secretary of the county’s Republican Party single-handedly challenged nearly 400 registered voters. And in Cumberland County, the right-wing group Voter Integrity Project, whose director Jay Delancy thinks the mentally ill should be barred from voting, has challenged voters’ eligibility with no other evidence than a single piece of mail that was sent to their home and bounced back as undelivered.
Federal standards state that voters should not be stripped from the voter rolls fewer than 90 days before an election. North Carolina law allows for the practice up to 25 before election day. Early voting began in the Tar Heel state last week. So far, estimates show that early voting numbers for African-American voters are down 17 percent since 2012.
As Salon reported last week, North Carolina’s voter purge has already ensnared a 100-year-old African-American woman who was nearly denied her right to vote after her voter-registration status was challenged.
The NAACP is demanding that North Carolina reinstate all voters challenged since 2012 as eligible to vote, notify them that they have been reinstated, and allow them to cast regular ballots.