Friday, November 4, 2016

GOP Request for Poll-Watcher Change Rejected

Andrea Sears, Public News Service

Federal courts have repeatedly found voter fraud is extremely rare. (redjar/flickr.com)
Federal courts have repeatedly found voter fraud is extremely rare. (redjar/flickr.com)
PHILADELPHIA – A federal judge has denied the GOP's challenge to Pennsylvania's poll-watching law. Republicans filed their lawsuit just two weeks ago, claiming a provision of the state law controlling the placement and activities of poll watchers is unconstitutional. The ruling said the request was not timely, not in the public interest and failed to meet the standard for last-minute action by the court.

Adam Gitlin, counsel with the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, calls the ruling "decisive."

"Unless there is some emergency appeal that the GOP is successful with, the restriction that said poll watchers have to be from their home county will stand on election day," he said.

The Republicans claim that additional poll watchers are needed to prevent voter fraud but have not produced evidence that voter fraud actually is a problem.

Gitlin said laws in place to protect the integrity of the voting process are up to the task, as shown by the recent arrest of a woman in Iowa who attempted to vote twice, for Donald Trump.

"These processes work, and therefore it's no surprise that there really is very little evidence of successful voter fraud," he added. "You're more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter impersonation."

Federal courts repeatedly have found that actual voter fraud is extremely rare.

Meanwhile, Democrats in Pennsylvania and other states have filed federal lawsuits seeking to prevent voter intimidation by Republicans. Gitlin notes that comments in social media and other venues have raised concerns that private individuals or poll watchers challenging voters at the polls may go beyond what is allowed by law.

"That doesn't mean we know they're going to do it but there's more indication than there has been in previous elections that potentially intimidating behavior is going to happen," he explained.

Gitlin emphasizes that claims of a "rigged" election or suggestions of voter intimidation should not deter people from exercising their right to vote.

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