Donald Trump’s campaign and national Republicans are pumping millions of dollars into efforts to restrict voting and aggressively fight Democratic efforts to make it easier to cast a ballot during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Republican National Committee has allocated $20m so far to oppose Democratic lawsuits across the country seeking to expand voting. Republicans are also seeking to recruit up to 50,000 people in 15 key states to serve as poll watchers and challenge the registration of voters they believe are ineligible, according to the New York Times.
The 2020 election will be the first time in nearly three decades that national Republicans will be involved in such a program. After the RNC was sued over intimidating minority voters in New Jersey in the early 1980s, they agreed to a federal court order not to engage in “ballot security” efforts. The order expired in 2018.
Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the RNC, accused Democrats of trying to “destroy” the integrity of elections on a conference call with reporters on Monday. Several studies, however, have shown that voter fraud is exceedingly rare.
The new effort is the latest in a high-stakes battle over voting laws that has shaped the last two decades in US politics. Republicans have consistently supported voting restrictions citing voter fraud. Democrats have pushed to make it easier to vote, saying the focus on voter fraud is just an excuse Republicans use to disenfranchise certain Americans, particularly students and minorities.
“It is a sad commentary on the sorry state of the Republican party that, under Trump, its only hope for winning in November is to try to suppress the vote,” said Marc Elias, an attorney who is representing Democrats in many of their suits across the country.
Amid Covid-19, the partisan fight has reached a new level. Republicans have fought Democratic efforts in Wisconsin and other states to make it easier to vote by mail. Democrats have sued to overturn requirements they say will make it difficult to cast a ballot during a pandemic, such as requiring people to give a state-approved excuse for why they want to vote absentee or a witness for their ballots.
“What we have seen over decades is that Republicans pursue incredibly aggressive voter suppression tactics because their agenda is unpopular and part of their strategy is to make it harder for Americans to vote,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. “We’re very aware that part of the Republican playbook is voter suppression and we’re fighting back.”
This content is part of The Fight to Vote Project in partnership with The Guardian