DNC Sues RNC for Violation of Voter Suppression Consent Decree

The Democratic National Committee has sued its Republican counterpart in federal court in New Jersey for violation of a consent decree that dates from events in 1981. Owing to massive voter suppression efforts in that year, the RNC eventually signed a consent decree agreeing not to utilize poll watchers, ballot security officers or any other form of on-site voter intimidation. The decree is to end December 1, 2017. However, the DNC’s suit alleges the GOP is violating the terms of the decree and wants the restrictions extended to 2025. The GOP needs to wise up. Suppressing votes is never as effective a way to win an election as earning them is.

What happened in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race in 1981 was despicable. Armed individuals including off-duty policemen were given arm bands identifying them as ballot security officers (no swastika, though), and they proceeded to harass voters in Democratic strongholds, targeting black voters in particular. The legal case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the GOP agreed not to do this kind of thing through the 2017 election.

Now, DNC attorney Angelo Genova submitted a motion to the federal court in New Jersey claiming there is “ample evidence that Trump has enjoyed the direct and tacit support of the RNC in its ‘ballot security’ endeavors, including the RNC’s collaboration on efforts to prevent this supposed ‘rigging’ and ‘voter fraud’.”

Politico.com notes that the motion quotes “Mike Pence as saying at a town hall that the campaign and RNC ‘are working very very closely with state governments and secretaries of states all over the country to ensure ballot integrity,’ and quoted a reporter recounting a conversation with Trump’s campaign manager in which she said said the campaign is ‘actively working with the national committee, the official party, and campaign lawyers to monitor precincts around the country’.”

The consent decree covers the RNC, its personnel and its agents. State parties are not covered by this. The RNC responded, “The filing is completely meritless. Just as in all prior elections in which the consent decree was in effect, the RNC strictly abides by the consent decree and does not take part directly or indirectly in any efforts to prevent or remedy vote fraud. Nor do we coordinate with the Trump campaign or any other campaign or party organization in any efforts they may make in this area. The RNC remains focused on getting out the vote.”

This is an argument one would hate to have to make. The Trump campaign and the RNC share funds raised. The GOP convention website states, “Rules adopted during the 2012 Republican National Convention established the formula for determining how many delegates and alternates are allocated to each state during the 2016 election cycle. They also set the timeframe as to when delegates and alternates can be elected.” Those delegates chose Mr. Trump as the nominee. It is pretty certain, therefore, that he and his campaign are agents of the RNC for legal purposes.

If the court agrees that the Trump campaign’s demands for poll watchers violates the consent decree, the expiration date can be moved out as far as 2025. Moreover, the RNC can be held in civil contempt. That could entail fines and possibly but improbably jail time for committee members.

This is, of course, the wrong way to win. It is an admission that one cannot muster a majority of the entire electorate. Therefore, removing some of the eligible voters from the active electorate is needed to win. A party that chooses this path will not evolve, will not develop policies that broaden its appeal. Eventually, the number of voters it needs to remove in order to win is too large. It then becomes a permanent minority party. That is hardly good for the future of the American right.