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Commentary & Opinion

Stephen Gottlieb: Voting Rights Vs. Big Donald

It is illegal to injure, coerce,  threaten, or intimidate people trying to vote or conspire to. So-called “Second Amendment rights” are no defense to those crimes, merely the means of committing them.

Armed extremists among Big Donald supporters have already responded with strong-armed methods to keep people from the polls. People with no compunction against kidnapping and “overthrowing the Government by force or violence,” which we used to call treason, responded to Trump’s call to “liberate Michigan” by trying to kidnap its governor and overthrow its government.

Instead of disavowing it, Trump has been encouraging the violence among his supporters. Many of us saw him tell a national audience at the First debate: 

“I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen. I’m urging them to do it.”

Trump Jr. called for an “army” of supporters to “protect ballots.” “Army for Trump” ads intimidate voters. Protecting ballots mostly means blocking those Biden supporters who are easy to identify because of the color of their skin. Trying to rig the election, Trump covers his crime by claiming Democrats are planning to.

Trump’s been talking to Second Amendment extremists for years. He told them that if Hillary Clinton were elected and

gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. … Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Democrats sued Republicans nearly forty years ago to stop and prevent them from blocking African-Americans and other Democrats from voting, passing out false information about how to vote, threatening and scaring honest and legitimate voters away from the polls. Republicans settled the lawsuit by signing a consent decree that they would not intimidate voters or target African-Americans to prevent them from voting. That consent decree had no end date.

But Big Donald has the tender-ego rule – democracy is only for people who’ll vote for him – otherwise he might have to be a sore-loser. And he has the tender pocketbook rule to protect his corrupt gains.

A judge lifted the consent decree two years ago, saying it wasn’t still needed because it had worked. Republicans accurately responded that lifting that consent decree was “huge, huge, huge, huge” because it’s much harder and time-consuming to prove illegal behavior than to enforce an existing consent decree. Now they have almost free reign especially after the Court in Washington gutted the Voting Rights Act. So Fearless Donald claims the election is rigged and proves it by rigging it himself. He’s determined to use every falsehood and dirty trick to keep people away from the polls who might vote for Democrats, or prevent their votes being counted.

So now the parties are locked in war games: Republicans work to prevent Democrats from voting or having their ballots counted in swing states, and Democrats work to prevent Republicans from getting away with it. Independent groups like ProtectDemocracy.org have organized to protect the voting process.

In addition to legitimate poll workers, voters in swing states will need supporters, observers and attorneys, helping them get to the polls without fear, security for guarding ballot collection boxes, and cameras to document strong-armed methods to corrupt the election. For all of us, it means vigilance, videos of misbehavior, prompt legal action, and organization to make sure people get to the polls – not for our egos but for our safety and the democratic country we’ve long treasured. Voting is one of the most important things we can do for our country and for each other.

Steve Gottlieb’s latest book is Unfit for Democracy: The Roberts Court and The Breakdown of American Politics. He is the Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Albany Law School, served on the New York Civil Liberties Union board, on the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Iran.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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