White supremacist groups say they will mobilise members to watch polls in areas largely populated by people of colour on Election Day, prompting concerns of conflict and an effort to disenfranchise black voters by the alt-right wing of Donald Trump’s support.
Leaders of the Oath Keepers, the National Socialist Movement, the Ku Klux Klan, and the American Freedom Party told Politico that they intend to monitor polling places “informally” or on behalf of the Trump campaign.
The Trump campaign – which recently earned the endorsement of the KKK’s official newspaper – has galvanised supporters from the white supremacist fringes of US politics. Mr Trump himself urged his supporters to watch the polls in “certain areas” of Pennsylvania.
Last week, a senior Trump official told Bloomberg Businessweek that the campaign had initiated a “voter suppression” to discourage black voters, white liberals, and young women from voting.
A representative from the alt-right website “The Right Stuff”, who have reportedly partnered with Neo-Nazi leader Andrew Anglin, told Politico that they plan to act on the suppression plan in Philadelphia.
“We are organising poll watchers in urban areas to cut down on the most traditional type of voter fraud,” the anonymous representative said, detailing a plan to hide cameras in various locations.
They added: “We also have some teams going into the ghettos in Philly with 40s and weed to give out to the local residents, which we think will lead to more of them staying home. We have had success with this in the past.”
Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League told Politico he was sceptical any efforts by Mr Anglin or his alt-right associates would come to fruition. However, he said, plans of the Oath Keepers – the militia made up of former law enforcement officers and military personnel – seemed much more likely to materialise.
The Oath Keepers issued a call last week for “members to form up incognito intelligence gathering and crime spotting team … dressed to blend in with the public” and monitor polling places for voter fraud.
Civil rights advocates are concerned that the presence of these white supremacists will spark violence on 8 November.
“The possibility of violence on or around Election Day is very real,” Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Centre told Politico. “Donald Trump has been telling his supporters for weeks and weeks and weeks now that they are about to have the election stolen from them by evil forces on behalf of elites.”
But Mr Potok said that a presence of white supremacist “monitors” could certainly encourage voters to hold their ground and cast their ballots in spite of the intimidation.
“If on the morning of Election Day it turns out that we have white supremacists standing around looking threatening at polling places, I think it would arouse anger,” he said. “People would vote just to prove they’re not being intimidated by these radical racists.”
Although Mr Trump decries the “rigged” electoral system, there is no definitive proof that voter fraud is a widespread problem in the US. A Loyola Law School study found only 31 certifiable cases of voter fraud among 1 billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014.
In fact, the most recent case of actual voter fraud came from an Iowa woman arrested after she attempted to cast two ballots for Mr Trump. She claimed she feared her initial Trump vote would be changed to a vote for Hillary Clinton.
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