Armed pro-Trump vigilantes plan to show up at election day polling sites amid fears of voter intimidation
The Oath Keepers are one of a number of far-right groups planning to position themselves outside of polling stations on election day (AFP via Getty Images).
Pro-Trump armed groups plan to patrol polling stations on election day, creating fears of voter intimidation in an already feverish season.
Voter intimidation is defined by the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, part of the Georgetown Act, as "firearm branding or intimidating firearms display".
The Oath Keepers, a far-right group that recently gathered on Derby Day in Kentucky to protest a demonstration by Breonna Taylor, confirmed they would be out on November 3rd.
Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, told the Los Angeles Times Saturday that his group "would be out on election day to protect the voters".
He said that some members were carrying hidden weapons.
Rhodes said he was concerned that "the radical left" is targeting voters and preventing them from casting their vote.
According to a poll by Pew Research in late July, Trump supporters are more likely to vote in person than Biden supporters.
"I'm going to vote personally and everyone else I know and I think the radical left knows that," Rhodes said.
He said his group would report problems to the police first, but that he "is not confident 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."
Other groups have discussed their plans for November 3rd online.
A group affiliated with QAnon - the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that claims that Trump was sent out to save the US from a cabal of satanist pedophiles acting as "the deep state" - has been identified by the SITE Intelligence Group in preparation for the deployment .
They said that "heavily armed MAGA patriots" were preparing for election day.
Heidi Beirich, co-founder of Georgia’s Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said she feared violence was most likely in cities that Trump was targeting - including Portland, Oregon; Seattle; Louisville; Kenosha and Detroit.
Laws differ by state when it comes to whether you can take a gun to a polling station - hidden, not hidden, or at all.
Carrying a firearm openly at a polling station could be interpreted as intimidating voters, which is illegal in the US.
And all 50 states prohibit private, unauthorized militia and military units from engaging in activities reserved for state militia, including law enforcement.
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."
She said, "Not only are these people willing to participate in voter intimidation, but they also hope to create this chaotic moment.
"There is an unwillingness to accept anything other than a Trump victory."
At a rally in Portland last month, the Proud Boys announced plans to monitor locations in Oregon where postal ballots were being cast, Ms. Miller noted.
Devin Burghart, the executive director of the Institute for Research and Education in Human Rights, told the Times that his organization 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 the vote ".
Burghart said people could report such groups through his group's app, which is designed to alert local law enforcers.
In some areas, voter intimidation has already begun.
Two right-wing agitators, Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, were arrested on October 8 in connection with voter intimidation and face sentences of up to seven years in prison.
Michigan assistant attorney general Richard Cunningham accused Burkman and Wohl of being behind a "racially insensitive robocall" that falsely claimed that callers voting by mail would be placed in a database used to track down those with outstanding warrants , used by creditors to collect debts and by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to get people vaccinated.
They are believed to have made 85,000 robocalls on people in areas like Detroit, which are home to a high percentage of color community voters.
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