From his encouragement of the Proud Boys to his slowing down the mail, the president’s threats to Election Day peace of mind are many and varied, a new lawsuit alleges.
WASHINGTON (CN) — Accusing the Trump administration of voter intimidation and other tactics bent on sabotaging next month’s election, a nonprofit that advocates for Latino voters brought a federal complaint Wednesday demanding injunctive relief.
The 53-page action describes a half dozen of the president’s disruptive gambits in its opening paragraphs, including his encouraging of white supremacists to stand watch at the polls and his proclamation that any ballot count that shows he lost cannot be trusted.
Mi Familia Vota Education Fund says “these threats [are made] terrifyingly credible” in the context of the last five months, where the public has seen federal law enforcement agents deployed “to violently suppress peaceful assemblies.”
“This pattern of violently suppressing opposition, sabotaging a free and fair election, and rejecting a peaceful transfer of power has the purpose and effect of intimidating Americans from voting,” the complaint continues.
Represented by the firms Mehri & Skallet, Emery Celli, and Free Speech for People, Mi Familia seeks injunctions not just against President Donald Trump but Attorney General William Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf as well.
The group says it has had focus on overcoming hurdles to mail-in voting and other barriers put in place by the Trump administration, diverting resources that it would otherwise use to educate voters on the issues.
Two registered voters, Sara Schwartz of Philadelphia and Marla Lopez of Houston, joined the case as co-plaintiffs and say they are especially intimidated when it comes to voting, given Trump’s direction for white supremacists to “stand back and stand by” on Election Day.
Schwartz as a Jewish woman and Lopez as Latina say such commands make them fear for their lives when it comes to using anything but the mail, but Trump has manipulated that, too, with his installation of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
“Beginning almost immediately after taking office, DeJoy initiated or oversaw drastic reductions to USPS staffing and service, including eliminating overtime for postal workers; limiting the number of mail trucks; removing hundreds of sorting machines from postal facilities, including in states where the presidential election is expected to be closely contested; demoting or reassigning 23 high ranking executives within the USPS; eliminating overtime pay and instituting a policy, for the first time in USPS history, permitting mail to be ‘left behind’; and removing mailboxes from neighborhoods in select locations across the country,” the complaint states.
Ron Fein, a co-counsel with Free Speech for People, said Americans have been internalizing months of rhetoric about voter-suppression tactics.
“So, when President Trump threatened to send sheriffs and law enforcement and everybody to polling places, millions of Americans heard that in the context of the violent law enforcement attacks on peaceful protesters that Trump, Barr and Wolf ordered or encouraged this summer,” Fein said.
In addition to a court order that will block the deployment of federal agents to polling places, Mi Vota wants Trump barred from encouraging his supporters to openly carry firearms at polling places and block access to polling places. Fein said they also want Trump blocked from using his Twitter account — or “official governmental public communications channels” — to suggest lawful votes will be challenged.
Fein called it more important than ever to safeguard the Voting Rights Act after the death of Congressman John Lewis, who was beaten in the Selma March of 1965 that is seen as a direct catalyst to the law’s passage.
“It’s tragic that so soon after John Lewis’ death we are revisiting the question of whether the fundamental right to vote should be free from intimidation and that the person intimidating voters across the nation is none other than the president of the United States,” Fein said. “The Voting Rights Act was passed to prevent just this sort of misconduct and the federal courts should step forward to protect the right to vote.”