By Michael Hill
It’s Democrats versus Republicans, not just at the ballot box but in a court of law. The case: a Newark federal judge ordering the Republican National Committee to explain how it’s working with the Donald Trump campaign to carry out what Republicans call “ballot security” but what Democrats consider intimidating minority voters.
In a recent visit to Newark, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Justice Department would protect the right to vote next week.
“I want to assure the American people that the Department of Justice will do everything in our power to defend it,” she said.
The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice has launched Prepared to Vote 2016, urging voters to call ahead to make sure they’re registered and know where to vote and watching out for intimidation.
“Our 866, our vote number, is staffed by volunteer attorneys who have access to any number of election officials here in New Jersey, including the Secretary of State. But if necessary we can escalate to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice is deploying federal observers,” said New Jersey Institute for Social Justice President and CEO Ryan Haygood.
Several legal, social justice and political organizations are conducting projects to make sure people are aware Nov. 8 is Election Day and that they have access to the ballot box.
Does this go to the issue at all of voting security to make sure that people have unfettered access to the ballot box?
“That’s exactly what we’re trying to make sure of,” said Charles Auffant, professor at Rutgers Community and Transactional Lawyering Clinic.
“More often than not what we have is some kind of human error that has taken place,” said Alexis Karteron, director of Rutgers Constitutional Rights Clinic.
Rutgers Law School runs the Voter Assistance Project on Election Day. These law school students are in training.
“We are training to help people who are told when they go to the polls that they are not in the registration book, to appear in front of a judge and obtain a court order saying that they’re able to vote that day,” said Christina Stripp.
“I do it because Newark is an area where there has been a lot of historic marginalization that goes on today,” said Abdul Rehman Khan.
“I’ve had some experience down in Tennessee where I’ve done poll-watching for a general presidential election. I felt the same sense of responsibility as well,” said Leslyn Moore.
A new Seton Hall University poll shows 47 percent of people surveyed think the presidential election could be rigged by outside influences, 46 percent not so.
Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin says extra security measures are in place for electronic voting and it would be hard to tamper with results despite what online how-to hack videos tend to show.
“Each machine is independently programmed so each machine is into itself programmed by itself so there’s no central network to hack,” Durkin said.
Whatever happens next week, the results are sure to be debated for years.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office will receive and respond to reports of election irregularities, voter intimidation or any other activities that would interfere with a citizen’s right to vote on Nov. 8. The Election Day Hotline — 888-636-6596 — will be active Nov. 7 through Nov. 9 and will be staffed live on Election Day in English and in Spanish.