We witnessed a flurry of activity from Donald Trump last week as he took steps to invalidate the 2020 election before it’s even held — assuming he doesn’t try to postpone or cancel it before then.
When Trump wasn’t busy working to invalidate mail-in ballots by sabotaging the United States Postal Service, he was making campaign appearances where he tried to invalidate the 2020 election by claiming that the only way he will lose in November is if the election is rigged.
“We have to win the election. We can’t play games. Go out and vote. Do those beautiful absentee ballots, or just make sure your vote gets counted. Make sure because the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged,” Trump told the group of supporters at the outdoor campaign event. “Remember that. It’s the only way we’re going to lose this election, so we have to be very careful.
“This is a big statement. The only way they’re going to win is that way. And we can’t let that happen.”
A few days after this speech, Trump’s secret advisor/admirer and the faux conservative TV host of his own show on Faux News, Sean Hannity, interviewed the object of his political infatuation and asked him about his plans to “monitor” the election to
avoid a fraudulent outcome invalidate the 2020 election to which Trump revealed his plan.
“My question to you then is, are you going to have poll watchers? Are you going to have an ability to monitor, to avoid fraud, and cross-check whether or not these are registered voters? Whether or not there has been identification to know that it’s a real vote from a real American?” Hannity asked.
“We’re going to have everything. We’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement, and we’re going to have, hopefully, U.S. attorneys. And we’re going to have everybody and attorney generals [sic]. But it’s very hard. I mean, you have some of these states sending them out, like Nevada, where they don’t even have to check the signatures, so anybody can sign it. New Jersey just sent it out, where the governor, as I understand it, just signed an executive order, didn’t even go through the legislature to get it done. And nobody has ever heard of anything like this,” Trump replied.
Trump’s “rigged election” claim comes straight out of his 2016 playbook, as does his suggestion that polling places be monitored. Trump warned his cult of a rigged election that would give Hillary Clinton the victory, and he asked for “volunteers” to patrol polling places, asking, “Help me stop ‘Crooked Hillary’ from rigging this election.”
Trump didn’t create his plan to invalidate the 2020 election out of thin air. Here’s a little bit of background provided by Trump’s favorite paper, The Washington Post, showing us its unhappy origins:
More than 30 years ago, a Republican Party program that dispatched off-duty police officers to patrol polling places in heavily Black and Latino neighborhoods in New Jersey triggered accusations of voter intimidation, resulting in a federal agreement that restricted for decades how the national GOP could observe voting.
The RNC came under scrutiny for allegedly violating the Voting Rights Act in New Jersey’s 1981 gubernatorial race, when the party was accused of creating a “National Ballot Security Task Force” made up of off-duty deputy sheriffs and local police officers who wore armbands and patrolled the polls in largely Black and Latino neighborhoods. Some allegedly displayed their firearms. Official-looking signs were posted at some precincts warning that voter fraud is a crime and that the task force was watching.
After the Democratic Party sued, the RNC entered into a federal consent decree in 1982 in which it admitted no wrongdoing but promised it would not take efforts to suppress the minority vote and would allow courts to review and approve future ballot security efforts.
In practice, that meant that for decades, the RNC largely ceded poll-watching activities to a candidate’s campaign operations.
However, a federal judge allowed the consent decree to expire in 2018.
Now, two years after those limits were lifted, Trump has revived the idea of using law enforcement officers to patrol polling places in his attempt to invalidate the 2020 election, or at the very least, influence it in his favor.
Some Republican officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal strategy said they were unaware of plans to deploy law enforcement officers to polling places, adding that the president’s comments were inaccurate and unhelpful to the party’s efforts to expand its poll-watching program through appropriate and legal measures.
In other words, Trump was off-script. And as we all know, that’s when he shows us his true heart.
In the end, however, Trump has limited authority when it comes to ordering local law enforcement to do anything, let alone patrol polling places. The states have the constitutionally protected right to conduct and determine elections, not to mention that local law enforcement agencies are beyond Trump’s authority as president.
As I once pointed out in an article concerning red flag laws, the office of sheriff is unique in that he is directly responsible to the people of his county, not the government or the courts. Sheriffs are elected, not appointed, and they have complete authority to reject the acts of any agency of the government if those acts violate the rights of the people.
Additionally, federal law bars U.S. government officials from sending “armed men” in the vicinity of polling places. According to the Justice Department, this means a U.S. attorney cannot order FBI agents or U.S. marshals to the polls.
But Trump has shown how little he cares about the Constitution and the rule of law, and he’s been more than willing to shred them for his personal benefit. Apparently, that includes his plan to invalidate the 2020 election in order to stay in office.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.