Armed groups say they will show up to polling sites on Election Day, and experts are afraid it will intimidate voters
An armed group marching in a right-wing protest in Virginia in January. Shay Horse / NurPhoto via Getty Images
Far-right groups plan to monitor polling stations online, some of which are armed, on election day, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
Stewart Rhodes, the leader of a far-right group called Oath Keepers, said its members would draw their guns if necessary.
Rhodes said he wanted to prevent "the radical left" from intimidating voters. Experts say the presence of groups like his would likely make things worse.
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Far-right groups plan to patrol polling stations, some of which are armed, on election day, causing experts to worry about the possibility of violent clashes and voter intimidation.
Stewart Rhodes, the leader of a far-right group called Oath Keepers, told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday that its members "would be absent on election day to protect voters". He said some were carrying hidden weapons.
A group affiliated with QAnon has also spoken on Telegram, describing "heavily armed MAGA patriots" as the Times said they were preparing for election day. The Times quoted the SITE Intelligence Group as tracking extremists online.
Laws differ by state when it comes to whether you can take a gun to a polling station - hidden, not hidden, or at all.
Members of the far right group Oath Keepers patrol the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, after rioting over police shots of black teenage boy Michael Brown in 2015.
Carrying a firearm openly at a polling station could be interpreted as intimidating voters, which is illegal in the US.
Rhodes said when it came down to it, its members would draw their guns.
Rhodes said he was concerned about the "radical left" that is turning against voters. A poll by Pew Research in late July found that Trump supporters are more likely to prefer a personal vote than Biden supporters this year.
"I'm going to vote personally and everyone else I know and I think the radical left knows that," Rhodes said.
Rhodes said his group would report problems to the police initially, but that he "is not confident that the police will do their job".
For example, he said if his group saw demonstrators at polling stations with guns, "we will intervene."
"We've done it before," he said. "If the cops do their job, we'll just stand by. If not, we'll step in."
Cassie Miller, a senior researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told the Times that "the chances are very good that we will see militiamen, armed groups or Trump supporters armed in the election."
"Not only are these people willing to participate in voter intimidation, they hope to create this chaotic moment," Miller said. "There is an unwillingness to accept anything other than a Trump victory."
Devin Burghart, the executive director of the Institute for Human Rights Research and Education, told the Times that his group believed far-right groups would stand by for elections in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and that "the act of showing up armed" is certainly a deterrent for people who come to vote. "
Burghart said people could report such groups through his group's app, which is designed to alert local law enforcers.
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