Here's How To Protect Yourself Against Voter Intimidation

An unprecedented election is bringing with it new threats and concerns.

The first thing Dale Ho wants you to know about voter intimidation is that it's not very common.

Ho, the Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Voting Rights Project, spoke to A Plus about how to respond if you are the victim of voter intimidation. But he prefaced it with an important message.

"Most voters need to understand that voter intimidation is not common," Ho said. "Voters shouldn't be scared about going to the polls on Tuesday, most voters are going to have a seamless experience. I don't want people to get the wrong impression."

It is true, however, that the RNC is currently under what's known as a consent decree after a federal court proved in the mid-1980s that they were intentionally intimidating minority voters during the election process. And, what's more, Donald Trump may have violated that decree by repeatedly encouraging untrained poll monitors to "watch other communities" at voting booths so that the election isn't "stolen from us."

As a result, the Democratic Party has filed several different lawsuits against the RNC and the Trump campaign for allegedly organizing voting intimidation efforts. The lawsuits also relate to reported incidents of intimidation at polls, people being told they needed IDs they didn't need, and a Republican councilman lying about potential ways to vote in online posts. That comes on the heels of a Boston Globe report just a couple weeks ago in which a Trump supporter told a reporter that he'd be profiling people and "making them a little bit nervous."

"I'll look for... well, it's called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can't speak American," he said. 

This kind of talk is exactly what Democratic officials are worried about, and what has prompted Ho and other members of the ACLU to speak out about how to take action against it. In the meantime, a federal judge has ordered that the RNC hand over all communications "related to poll watching, voter fraud, or 'ballot security,'" according to The Atlantic

Most importantly, all Americans should know they are granted the fundamental right to vote without intimidation or coercion.

So below, we've put together 5 things to keep in mind when you head to the polls to vote. 

1. Real poll monitors are trained not to address voters.

If someone is directly addressing you and claims to be a poll monitor, they probably aren't. Trained, credentialed poll monitors are taught not to interact directly with voters and not to enter any voting booths. If someone is actually a poll monitor, they probably won't be addressing you.

2. Some "intimidation" isn't really intimidation — it's just a trick.

One of the reported methods of "voter intimidation" primarily involves deception, not intimidation. In some states with no voter ID laws, people on site have allegedly told voters waiting in lines that they needed their IDs. If they didn't have them, they simply told them to go home. Be sure to check what you'll need before you go to the voting booth so you know what is a legitimate ask and what isn't.

3. In general, poll monitors are a good thing.

"Candidates and campaigns in most states are legally entitled to have poll monitors," Ho said. "As long as they are trained and certified by the campaign and by local elections officials and are subject to very specific rules... we agree that that's a good thing."

4. There are hotlines to call if you have issues.

If you think you were just the victim of voter intimidation, report it. Immediately.

You can do that by calling 1-866-OURVOTE.

5. If you are thinking about being a poll monitor, make sure you're doing it legally.

When Donald Trump told supporters to go to Philadelphia and watch the polls, he was actually telling supporters to break the law. In order to legally monitor a poll, you need to be registered and trained in the county where you are doing poll monitoring.

So if you want to help out, make sure you've been properly trained and have gone through all the appropriate steps. As we mentioned, illegally monitoring a poll is a federal crime, and that's the last thing you want to commit.