WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2016—Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement in response to the Trump campaign’s new effort to recruit supporters to challenge and intimidate voters at the polls. In the wake of the Shelby County v. Holder decision, the Department of Justice has massively scaled back its election observer program, making voters of color more vulnerable to harassment and intimidation than at any time in the past 50 years:
When a campaign that has been notable for its demonization of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities urges its supporters to challenge voters at polling locations nationwide, the Department of Justice and state and local election officials must respond forcefully and unambiguously.
As the LA Times and Washington Post have noted, Trump’s recent exhortation to challenge voters in ‘certain sections’ of Pennsylvania was a reference to majority-Black precincts in Philadelphia. Such dog whistles invoke the voter intimidation and harassment efforts that led to the passage of the now-gutted Voting Rights Act.
Concerns over voter intimidation have already arisen in this election due to the bigoted rhetoric of this campaign, and have been made more perilous by the Department of Justice’s determination that the Shelby decision requires it to drastically scale back its election observer program. This latest development should raise concern for all people who care about the integrity of this election.
In fact, courts have long recognized the danger of voter harassment and intimidation to voters of color and banned the RNC from voter intimidation efforts in 1982. This decree has remained for the past 30 years – the Supreme Court declined to lift it in 2013 – and remains in effect until December 1, 2017.
The integrity of our election rests on the ability of all voters to cast ballots free from intimidation. We urge the Trump campaign to cease this dangerous effort and call on federal, state, and local election officials to immediately consider measures to protect voters at the polls.
Wade Henderson is the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.