The Republican National Committee denied Thursday violating a decades-old consent decree that limits RNC “ballot security” activities which Democrats say amount to minority voter intimidation, and dismissed Democratic efforts in a court filing this week to have the RNC held in contempt of court.
“The filing is completely meritless,” RNC spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement to TPM Thursday. “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.”
On Wednesday, the DNC asked a federal court to intervene in what Democrats allege is a coordination between the RNC and the Donald Trump campaign in the campaign’s efforts to send vigilante poll watchers to voting sites. The RNC has denied any collaboration, a denial Walters reiterated in her statement, which said that the RNC does not “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,” Walters said.
Democrats have accused the RNC of assisting the Trump campaign in its so-called “ballot security” efforts, which many fear will amount to a voter intimidation campaign targeting minority voters. The RNC is prohibited from participating in such activities — particularly when they are targeted at minority communities — by the consent decree, which dates back to a case Democrats brought against Republicans in the 1980s accusing the RNC of voter intimidation activities in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
A modification to the decree allows it to expire next year, assuming the RNC is not found to have subsequently violated it. In their filing Wednesday, Democrats ask for it be extended another eight years and for the RNC to be found in contempt of court for the alleged violations of the court order.
The filing focuses on the the RNC and Trump campaign’s close relationship, including comments made by campaign officials suggesting the committee was assisting its anti-voter fraud activities at polling places. (Some of those comments were later walked by the officials.) It also points to actions state party leaders — who are also members of the RNC — have taken to encourage election-monitoring activities that appear to heed Trump’s poll watcher call-to-arms. State parties aren’t technically covered by the consent decree, and are allowed to deploy poll watchers assuming they follow the law, which varies by state. The legal question is whether they or the members of the Trump campaign encouraging elections-monitoring or Trump himself can be taken as acting as agents of the RNC. The RNC has urged its members not to participate in such activities, even if they are acting on behalf of the state party or individually.
Trump has called for his supporters to “watch the polling booths” in “certain areas,” and made accusations of a “rigged election” a major part of his stump speeches in the final weeks of the campaign.
The DNC on Wednesday also released a statement alongside of the filing.
“Donald Trump has mocked women, people of color, immigrants, and people with disabilities and now he’s afraid they’ll vote. There is no excuse for what he’s encouraging his supporters to engage in, and there’s no excuse for the Republican Party that has enabled him throughout his campaign,” DNC Interim Chair Donna Brazile said.