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Judge Rejects DNC Voter-Intimidation Claims

(CN) — Denying its request for an injunction and sanctions, a federal judge ruled Saturday that the Democratic National Committee has not proven that its Republican counterpart is working with Donald Trump's campaign to intimidate minority voters.

It was during the 1981 New Jersey gubernatorial election that the Republicans sent sample ballots to predominantly ethnic minority areas, and then asked to remove from voter rolls the names of those whose ballots were returned as undeliverable.

The Republican National Committee also hired off-duty police with armbands that read "National Ballot Security Task Force," along with two-way radios and guns, to patrol polling places in minority precincts, according to court records.

The Democratic National Committee sued that same year, claiming the RNC and the New Jersey Republican State Committee were trying to intimidate minority voters.

That led to a consent decree between the parties, whereby the RNC agreed in 1982 to not have employees campaign within restricted polling areas or interrogate voters as to their qualifications.

The Republicans also agreed to not undertake any ballot-security activities in polling places based on a district's racial or ethnic composition to deter qualified voters from voting.

The parties modified the decree in 1987 and 2009, following alleged violations.

Now, the DNC says Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign has encouraged voter intimidation.

Trump reportedly told a Pennsylvania crowd in October that it is "[s]o important to watch other communities because we don't want this election stolen from us . . . And everybody knows what I'm talking about" — blacks in Philadelphia, according to the Democrats.

The DNC claims former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani implied that voter fraud is concentrated in "inner cities" like Philly and Chicago, where Democrats have support.

A page on Trump's campaign website seeking "election observers," and the website StopTheSteal.org, supposedly run by Roger Stone, an alleged Trump advisor involved in the 1981 campaign, further show Trump's intention to suppress votes, according to the Democrats.

The DNC sought injunctive relief, contempt, and an extension of the decree.

But U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez denied the motions Saturday.

"The Trump campaign has clearly emphasized voter fraud efforts," Vazquez wrote. "Mr. Trump himself has publicly encouraged his supporters to actively fight voter fraud."

But the DNC has failed to show that the RNC has coordinated with Trump's efforts, the 36-page ruling states.

"The discovery thus far produced by the RNC reflects that it is not working with the Trump campaign on ballot security measures," Vazquez wrote. "First, no agreements between the two exist as to voter fraud efforts. In addition, the RNC's chief counsel, Mr. [John] Phillippe, personally confirmed with Gov. Pence and [Trump campaign manager] Ms. [Kellyanne] Conway that neither were aware of any activities with the RNC pertaining to ballot integrity."

Plus, "the RNC's counsel informed the Trump campaign that it will not engage in any such efforts on Election Day," according to the ruling.

Though Democrats have "credible evidence" that the RNC has poll observers in Nevada, they are not likely to succeed on this claim, the judge ruled.

"The strongest evidence concerns the statements of O.P., who allegedly gave potential voters materially wrong information on four occasions," Vazquez wrote. "Even this evidence, however, turns on O.P.'s intent when she provided the erroneous advice — did she do so intentionally or was she unintentionally mistaken? More importantly, even if O.P.'s statements were intentionally misleading, the court is unable to infer an overarching program based on the actions of one person."

The court will hear the parties' arguments as to additional discovery after Election Day, the ruling states.

The DNC's attorney, Angelo Genova with Genova Burns in Newark, N.J., said he is "disappointed" in the ruling.

But Genova said he finds "comfort in knowing that meaningful discovery may be pursued afterward to establish that this 30-plus-year consent order should remain viable in the fight against RNC inspired voter suppression efforts."

The RNC's attorney, Mark Sheridan with Patton Boggs in Newark, did not return a request for comment emailed Monday.

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