Donald Trump’s campaign is raising an army of lawyers and others to observe the polls in November to prevent what he called “cheating” that could prevent him from defeating Hillary Clinton. And that’s raising concerns among Georgia Democrats who worry about shenanigans at a voting location near you.
As the Republican nominee amps up his warnings of a “rigged” election and polls show him falling further behind Clinton, the campaign is rallying volunteers to descend on vote-casting sites to monitor for any problems.
Randy Evans, the Atlanta attorney who heads the Republican National Lawyers Association, told The Washington Post that a Trump attorney briefed the group on the budding election-protection network. He said Trump hopes to create a “pretty select, Navy SEAL-type operation” around the nation that could include 7,000 lawyers on the ground and a hub of another 200 election experts on call.
That’s not unusual. Barack Obama recruited “Election Observers” across the nation in his two campaign victories, and other Democratic and Republican candidates built robust election-watching networks. But it was this snippet that included Georgia’s top elections official that had Georgia Democrats sounding an alarm.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican, said a surge of Trump-inspired poll watchers would be welcome, so long as they undergo training after the state receives their names.
“We don’t want anyone getting unruly,” he said.
That is what worries Democrats and some election analysts. They say Trump’s talk of the “rigged” system has almost promised that poll-watching volunteers will see fraud. During Nevada’s GOP caucuses — run by the state party and thus lacking some of the controls of general elections — some Trump supporters showed up for election monitoring duty wearing campaign gear, panicking rival campaigns.
In Georgia, such behavior could pose a problem. Supporters of either candidate can’t simply show up to a voting precinct and declare themselves an observer. State law requires each political party to name their observers in advance, and limits it to two poll watchers per precinct. There is no formal training regulated by state law, either, although both parties train their own watchers.
Democratic Party of Georgia spokesman Michael Smith voiced his party’s concerns about the specter of Trump loyalists descending on the state’s polling sites.
“Given the GOP’s sordid history with voting rights in Georgia, this is serious cause for alarm,” said Smith, adding that “there’s really no telling what kind of stunts Republicans are willing to pull.”