Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford (D) on Thursday denounced President Donald Trump’s recent calls to have his supporters act as self-delegated poll watchers. Ford threatened to prosecute any attempts to intimidate voters at poll locations during the upcoming presidential election in November.
Trump was harshly criticized for encouraging voter intimidation during Tuesday night’s presidential debate when he directed his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully” to prevent widespread fraud. There is no evidence to support the president’s claims that polling locations in Democratic districts or mail-in ballots are susceptible to prevalent fraud.
Appearing on MSNBC on Thursday, Ford said his office was increasingly concerned that the Trump’s directive would lead to illegal voter intimidation by his supporters.
“We are concerned about voter intimidation. I saw right through what President Trump was saying on the debate stage the other night,” Ford told host Stephanie Ruhle.
“We’ve heard this before. The message is important, and poll watching and poll observing in our state is legal, if you go through the process, which includes signing an affirmation that you won’t even talk to voters, let alone intimidate them. But the messenger is also important, as is the context of the message. And the messenger here, Donald Trump, has proven his penchant for trying to encourage illegality,” Ford said, adding that it was “a dog whistle for voter intimidation.”
Though the laws vary from state to state, poll watchers are generally tasked with monitoring and reporting on election administration. In most states, political parties, candidates and ballot issue committees appoint poll watchers, but they are never permitted to interfere in the electoral process apart from reporting issues to polling place authorities and party officials, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
Ford said Nevada has established a Voter Integrity task force made up of local and state authorities, and urged anyone experiencing any form of intimidation to inform a poll worker and there will be real-time responses to protect the integrity of the election.
Asked about the consequences for anyone found to be intimidating voters at polling locations, Ford vowed to prosecute such activity to the fullest extent of the law.
“It’s a Class-E felony in our state, meaning you can get up to one to four years in prison as well as a fine and we will be prosecuting this,” Ford responded. “My office has prosecuted people for voting twice, and I will prosecute people for intimidating voters exercising their constitutional right to vote.”
Ford made a similar promise on Twitter immediately following Trump’s comments during the debate.
“Trump also told ‘his supporters’ to ‘go into the polls and watch very carefully.’ But he wasn’t talking about poll watching. He was talking about voter intimidation,” Ford tweeted late Tuesday evening. “FYI — voter intimidation is illegal in Nevada. Believe me when I say it: You do it, and you will be prosecuted,” he said.
Sheriff’s deputies on Tuesday reportedly escorted a top Trump campaign official in Pennsylvania out of a satellite election office at Philadelphia City Hall ofter he was allegedly seen recording video and taking pictures inside one of the voting booths. The official, James Fitzpatrick, was described as being “disruptive” and “irate” when he was asked to leave.
[image via MSNBC screengrab]
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