Donald Trump has spent the last few weeks loudly proclaiming the election is rigged, suggesting ominously that voter fraud on a massive scale will occur, and that his supporters need to show up and stand watch at polling sites.
“You’ve got to go out, and you’ve got to get your friends, and you’ve got to get everybody you know, and you gotta watch the polling booths, because I hear too many stories about Pennsylvania, certain areas,” Trump said at a recent rally in rural Pennsylvania. “I hear too many bad stories, and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about.”
Now dozens of lawyers from New York City say they will be there to ensure that those Trump supporters don’t intimidate voters or interfere with the election process.
On Monday morning, members of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, a group affiliated with the Democratic Party, gathered outside City Hall to announce that they will fan out across the country to protect the right to vote.
“Trump has said, ‘We’re gonna win this race unless there’s voter fraud in “certain communities,” ‘ ” says Council Member Rory I. Lancman, who will be a part of the monitoring effort. “He’s referring to inner cities, with mostly black and Latino voters. It’s unprecedented in my lifetime, this type of intimidation.”
The attorneys will travel to states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina, where last week an anti-Trump protester was pummeled at campaign rally for the Republican candidate by a Trump supporter.
James L. Ansorge, one of the attorneys volunteering to monitor the polls, says though Trump’s campaign has aroused fears about voter fraud at recent rallies, and his rhetoric attempting to delegitimize elections is dangerous, Ansorge doesn’t feel a potential threat to his personal safety.
“The acts of intimidation, discrimination, and of polling-place disruption are the real threats — to our democracy,” he says. “Our legal community has been so strong, as hundreds of lawyers have signed up to deploy to key battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Florida.”
Lawyers joining the effort to protect against voter suppression will be in the field monitoring poll sites, making sure that voters understand their rights, and reporting any instances of intimidation, misinformation, and disenfranchisement.
“In New York, we’ll have a group of senior attorneys keeping track of instances when and where a voter’s rights are infringed upon, or if there are findings of systematic problems that could create a court challenge,” says Ansorge.
Research has shown that restrictive voter photo ID laws disproportionately impact people of color, and many of the attorneys volunteering are already traveling to swing states, knocking on doors, answering voters’ questions, and informing people about their rights as registered voters.
For lawyers and non-attorneys alike, the NYDLC have included a link on their website for those interested in signing up to serve as a monitor (or volunteer in some capacity) on Election Day.
Lancman says he plans to travel to Pennsylvania on Election Day for the opening of the polls at 7 a.m. and will stay for at least half the day.
“We must protect the vote, especially in places where it’s most threatened,” says Lancman. “Lawyers are in one of the best positions to defend against any illegal and unconstitutional challenges of people who are entitled to their right to vote.”