I very briefly touched on voter intimidation the other day and have been chastised for not expanding on it enough. I spent part of a day debating whether I was going to revisit the subject in both a historical and modern context and this is what sprang from that: Voter Intimidation Revisited. In the original post, I wrote about threatening bodily harm if a voter doesn’t vote a certain way as voter intimidation. It is the one that has been most prevalent since the 1800s. However, it’s not just the threat of violence that counts as voter intimidation and this post will talk about those.
It wasn’t until the 1880s that voting began via “secret ballot,” until then it was much easier and it wasn’t illegal . For the record, it is illegal everywhere in 2020 (it became illegal in all parts of the US in 1948 with passing of US Code 594); it’s a federal crime that comes with a prison sentence. If you or someone you know has been the victim of voter intimidation there is a hotline to report it just call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
The most common form of voter intimidation in the mid-1800s was demanding your employees vote for a specific candidate or lose their jobs. If you owned a store, factory, or some other business you could in fact fire employees for not voting how you wanted and since ballots weren’t secret… The introduction of the secret ballot helped end of some of this, as an employee could now just pretend to vote for whoever their boss told them to vote for, but it didn’t behove the common working man to belong to a political party because it might not be the same party your boss belonged to.
The other most common form of voter intimidation we still deal with more than 140 years after the introduction of the secret ballot: telling voters a state has a requirement that certain people don’t meet when the state doesn’t have it. For example, some years ago a handful of people were arrested for dissuading Latino Voters who didn’t speak English from voting by telling them that speaking English was a requirement to vote in the US. It’s not and before you start snorting with rage, you need to understand that every country in the world allows other languages to be spoken within its borders than the “dominant native tongue” of its citizens. There is no legal reason to demand voters speak English. As a country founded on the desperation of millions of immigrants we should be understanding of non-English speakers and our lack of tolerance is atrocious. Anyway, telling people they must speak English to vote is in fact a form of Voter Intimidation and punishable by prison time in someplace like Leavenworth.
In October 2020 this instance of Voter Intimidation was filmed by an actress driving through Beverly Hills. And yes, everything these people are doing is illegal from the person wielding a sword to the guy who says “we got your license plate.” Even more worrisome it took place within sight of an early vote polling location. Imagine passing a crowd shouting “Vote Trump or else; we got your license plate” while someone from the group plays with a sword on your way to vote.
In theory, all activist groups must stay a certain distance away from polling locations. How far is different in every state and as the video above shows it can be too close for comfort in some places. Oddly, there is no federal laws prohibiting guns in polling locations, but many states have them. Missouri does not allow guns in polling locations much to the chagrin of some people I know. Furthermore, some people I know are convinced BLM activists are going to take over polling locations all over the country and force people to vote at gunpoint. When they tell me this, I try not to fall over when I roll my eyes. It is not impossible because people are insane, but it is highly improbable that BLM organizers have a game plan in place to take over polling locations across the nation and force people to vote at gunpoint. First, BLM is a mostly peaceful movement. Yes, there is occasionally violence during their protests, but there are bad apples everywhere. Saying BLM is a violent movement because of a few bad apples is like saying all Trump supporters are psychopathic mass murders based upon the dozen or so shootings committed by people that refused to put on a mask when asked to by store employees during the pandemic (and this applies double since doctors and scientists agree wearing a mask prevents the spread… and that by not wearing a mask they are endangering thousands of lives).
In the past, it is the extremist groups that have tried to monitor voting activities in polling places or tried to bring weapons into them. The KKK and The Nation of Islam both have tried to intimidate voters by carrying guns near polling locations. In 2020, that won’t change, it will still be radical militia style groups that try to intimidate voters by brandishing weapons near polling locations. Should BLM protest near polling locations you must ask yourself does a large group of people who don’t look like you holding signs about equality intimidate you and if so… why? I say this after showing the above video to a Trump supporter and him finding nothing wrong with it, despite telling me he was taking his gun and leaving it in the car in case Antifa protesters showed up to make trouble. (I have so many questions about that logic and the blindness caused by his bias)
Already in 2020, more than 10,000 calls have been made to the voter intimidation hotline a sharp increase from previous years. And that should concern all of us.