US Presidential Elections 2016: Federal judge rejects voter intimidation arguments

A federal judge in New Jersey on Saturday denied a motion by the Democratic National Committee to sanction the Republican National Committee before Election Day.

By: AP | Newark | Published:November 6, 2016 8:23 am
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A federal judge in New Jersey on Saturday denied a motion by the Democratic National Committee to sanction the Republican National Committee before Election Day. Judge John Michael Vazquez’s ruling came one day after lawyers for the Democrats had argued that Republicans were coordinating with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump to intimidate voters in violation of an agreement that the RNC has been forced to follow since 1982.

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Republican Party lawyers denied those claims. Vazquez wrote that the documents provided to the court by the RNC showed no indication it was working in concert with the Trump campaign on activities that might constitute voter intimidation. But the judge said he would allow for additional arguments after the election to decide whether the consent decree slated to expire next year should be extended.

The legal challenge is one of several around the country filed by Democrats. The case in New Jersey sought to link some of poll watchers and state parties with the Republican National Committee, arguing that any collaboration on voter intimidation or ballot security efforts would violate the agreement.

The consent decree was created after Democrats alleged that the RNC helped intimidate black voters during New Jersey’s 1981 gubernatorial election. The RNC and New Jersey’s Republican party allegedly had off-duty law enforcement officers stand at polling places in urban areas wearing “National Ballot Security Task Force” armbands. Some had guns visible.

The RNC admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to the decree to settle the case. The decree only regulates work done by the RNC and is scheduled to end next year. The Democratic National Committee wants it extended another eight years, but needs to convince a judge that the RNC has violated the 34-year-old rules.

“The court clearly reached the right conclusion,” RNC spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said Saturday. “The DNC offered the court nothing but politically charged allegations with no credible evidence whatsoever. There is no credible evidence because the RNC remains fully compliant with the consent decree.”

In a statement issued Saturday, Angelo Genova, a lawyer for the DNC, said he was “disappointed in the court’s decision denying immediate relief on the eve of this election, but find 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.”