DOJ Warns Efforts to Stop 2016 Voter Fraud Could ‘Violate’ Federal Law
A U.S. Department of Justice press release warns individuals who may serve as poll watchers hoping to prevent voter fraud could violate voter intimidation laws.
Upon first blush, what may appear to be a middling warning that voter fraud and abuse will not be tolerated by federal law enforcement also casts a shadow over various lawful election activities with broad language apparently intended to caution individuals from performing their duties.
A statement initially circulated by various U.S. Attorney’s offices outline several forms of election crimes to include “buying and selling votes, impersonating voters,” and others, yet offers a blanket warning to individuals that may hope to disrupt and document similar plots that those actions may, too, “violate federal voting rights law.” The DOJ comment specifically counsels against communicating with voters and “challenging them”, plus the capture of still and video images is also mentioned. The statement does not grant the varying distinctions in which states may allow communication between voters and poll watchers, nor does the DOJ note that some observers in specific states do indeed have the power to challenge would-be voters based on documented ineligibility. As a point of fact, some states—Missouri as an example—specifically call election observers “challengers”, according to local statutes.