Dec 7 (Reuters) – A year before voters choose the next U.S. president, groups on all sides are already scrambling to prepare for what they see as the biggest threat to the 2024 election: attacks against the rights of voters for some, potential electoral fraud for others.
A coalition of nonpartisan voter advocacy groups plans to recruit the largest group of “voter protection” volunteers ever – more than 20,000 – to answer voters’ questions, help poll workers resolve problems and provide assistance. legal assistance if necessary.
At the same time, the Republican National Committee said it aimed to train tens of thousands of poll observers who could be deployed in 2024, and launched a full-time “Department of Election Integrity” that hired more than 15 people across the United States.
The committee said the measures would be independent of the campaign of former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the party’s nomination against Democratic President Joe Biden.
Allegations of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election in which Biden defeated Trump were rejected by several courts, state governments and members of the former Trump administration. Existing safeguards make voter fraud extremely rare, election analysts say.
Recruitment drives are underway, however, with election officials bracing for clashes like those that marred voting and vote counting in 2020, when Trump falsely blamed voter fraud for his loss to Biden.
Trump repeats his baseless claims
Trump continues to repeat baseless claims that the last presidential election was stolen from him. At a rally last weekend, Trump called his supporters to “keep polling places” next year in Atlanta, Detroit and Philadelphia, three heavily Democratic American cities with large black populations.
LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said Trump choosing these cities in battleground states was consistent with the racially divisive rhetoric he has already used to rally his base.
“The importance of these particular places is that they are home to significant black populations that make a major difference and can influence the outcome of elections,” Brown said.
Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump, said it was “ridiculous” to suggest that Trump’s citations of Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta had anything to do with race.
“Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia are arguably the three states where election integrity experts have had the most concerns about 2020. Philadelphia, Detroit and Atlanta are the largest Democratic-led cities in each state,” he said. Miller said.
None of these cities experienced widespread voter fraud in this election.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson said Trump had “polluted our election system and our trust in it in a way we haven’t seen since the 1950s, before the Voting Rights Act.” The 1965 law helped emancipate black citizens after decades of racist laws passed in Southern states to legalize racial segregation after the American Civil War.
Johnson called Trump’s comments Saturday “dangerous” and reminiscent of the then-president’s unfounded claims that inspired the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.
A US appeals court on Friday rejected Trump claimed he was immune from being sued over the statements, ruling that he faced civil lawsuits filed by Democratic lawmakers and Capitol police officers who accused him of personally incited to the violence of January 6.
PREPARE FOR DISRUPTORS
Far from intimidating poll workers, Trump’s recent comments “will likely propel turnout to an all-time high” in Detroit, City Clerk Janice Winfrey said.
During the 2020 elections, she recalled, crowds of protesters knocked on the windows of counting centers, shouting “stop the count”.
To avoid such scenes in 2024, Detroit poll watchers will be electronically monitored, distanced from workers and monitored by more police, said Winfrey, who started carrying a gun after a stranger came to her home in November 2020 to accuse her of rigging the election against Trump.
“We will continue to remain impervious to nonsense,” she said. “It’s no secret that the demographic of these cities is black, and in his ignorance he thinks we can be easily intimidated by people who don’t necessarily look like us.”
Before the election, officials can avoid some of the chaos created by poll watchers looking for fraud in 2020 by establishing clear rules and raising public awareness about how tabulation processes, such as signature verification , are operating normally, said Suzanne Almeida, policy manager. violence prevention and response work within the non-partisan Common Cause.
States have different requirements for who can monitor polling places. In Georgia, where poll watchers can come from any part of the country, voter advocates have urged local leaders to increase fines for voting misconduct, increase security at vote-counting centers and grant electoral officials protected class status, like judges. which better secures their personal information.
Patrise Perkins-Hooker, chairwoman of the elections board in Fulton County, Georgia, which includes most of Atlanta, said vote counting would take place in a new location in 2024 that also houses a law enforcement office. ‘order.
“But in light of all the court confirmations that people participating in such disruptive behavior will be held accountable, we hope we won’t have any problems next year,” Perkins-Hooker said.
Reporting by Julia Harte and Tim Reid Additional reporting by Jarrett Renshaw Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Grant McCool
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