Trump supporters are gearing up to stage potentially violent demonstrations at polling sites across the country on Election Day. Armed MAGA groups are planning to patrol polls on Election Day, raising questions regarding voter safety.
Leader of the far-right group the Oath Keepers revealed to the L.A. Times that his members are planning to patrol the polls on Tuesday, November 3rd. Stewart Rhodes made the alarming announcement on Saturday that his members would “be out on Election Day to protect people who are voting.” Rhodes confirmed that some of them will be armed with concealed weapons.
“I’ll be voting in person and so will everybody else I know, and I think the radical left knows that,” Rhodes said before adding that he and his group will initially report their concerns to law enforcement. However, he said that he’s “not confident police will do their job” and declared that the Oath Keepers were prepared to take the law into their own hands.
“We’ve done it before. If the cops are doing their job, we’ll just stand by. If they’re not, we’ll step in.”
Senior researcher with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Cassie Miller expressed her concern with the MAGA groups presence, telling The Times that “chances are really high that we’re going to see militia members, armed groups, or Trump supporters who are armed at the polls.”
“Not only are these people willing to participate in voter intimidation, but they’re hoping to create this chaotic moment,” Miller went on to add. “There’s an unwillingness to accept anything but a Trump victory.”
Each state has its own laws regarding whether or not a weapon is permitted at polling sites. However, openly carrying and brandishing a firearm at polling sites is considered voter intimidation, which is a direct violation of the Voting Rights Act. This is a federal crime in the United States and is subject to severe civil penalties throughout the country. In Pennsylvania for example, the punishment for voter intimidation is fine up to $15,000 or 7 years in prison.
According to Devin Burghart, the executive director of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, his group has been alerted to far-right groups being stationed at polls in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan as a “deterrent to folks showing up to vote.”
Voter intimidation has been a controversial topic ever since Donald Trump commanded his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully” during the presidential debate. This statement raised immediate alarm amongt civil rights and voting rights advocates who believed that the unstable president was ordering his supporters to intimidate Democratic voters. During that same debate, Trump refused to condemn white supremacist groups such as the Proud Boys, telling them to “stand back and stand by.”