Fighting Against Voter Intimidation

Voter intimidation, which is illegal under federal and state law, poses a clear and present danger to democracy. When some voters are afraid to cast their ballots, an election cannot be considered free or fair.

Every voter has the right to vote free from fear. That means that they must be able to vote free from threats, coercion, or intimidation, or attempted threats, coercion, or intimidation. It doesn’t matter what form that intimidation takes, it doesn’t matter whether it’s based on race, it doesn’t matter who is doing the intimidation, and it doesn’t matter whether the intimidator meant to intimidate anyone. Voter intimidation is still illegal.

What is voter intimidation?

The United States has a long history of voter intimidation, from the Ku Klux Klan violently attacking Black people during Reconstruction, to local sheriffs arresting participants in voter registration drives during Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, to modern examples of campaigns engaging in aggressive poll-watching and falsely suggesting that eligible voters may be committing a crime by voting. As a result, protecting the right for all eligible citizens to vote free from fear requires steady vigilance, as the techniques used to intimidate or otherwise suppress the participation of voters have evolved over time.

Voter intimidation today can take multiple forms. It can be making false accusations of election crimes against eligible voters or otherwise defaming them. It can be threatening voters with economic harm. It can be threatening voters with violence. It can be aggressive poll-watching techniques. It can be engaging in law enforcement actions that threaten voters and make them feel unsafe. Indeed, it can even be government officials turning a blind eye to intimidation.

While we’re working hard to guard against these worst-case scenarios, voters should have confidence in elections, and should not be afraid to cast their ballot for the candidate of their choice. Thousands of local, honest, hard-working folks are running our elections, as they have every year. Further, lawyers and advocates — including those at Protect Democracy — all over the country will be watching carefully to make sure that all Americans can vote free of fear.

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