A court ruling that outlaws “ballot security” efforts by the Republican National Committee gives the Democratic National Committee free rein to run its own election-watch operations.
Under the decree, the RNC must obtain Democrats’ approval before training and placing poll watchers or conducting other forms of election-integrity operations.
The 1982 consent decree and its legal double standard came to light last week when Democrats accused the RNC of coordinating with the Donald Trump campaign, allegedly to suppress minority turnout.
U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez in Newark, N.J., ordered Republicans to turn over to Democrats any written or verbal agreements relating to voter fraud, ballot security, poll watching and poll monitoring.
Democrats charged, as they did in a 1981 New Jersey gubernatorial contest that spawned the consent decree, that the RNC attempted to suppress minority voting. The Republican Party accepted the terms of the decree, which is due to expire next year.
Democrats have filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada and Arizona, seeking court orders barring Republican groups in those states from coordinating with the Trump campaign, or Trump adviser Roger Stone, to photograph or question voters at predominantly minority polling places, Bloomberg News reported.
Hans von Spakovsky, a former federal election commissioner and fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, confirmed that Democrats are not held to the same standards and restrictions now applied to Republicans.
“The original consent order from two decades ago is ludicrous. It appears as if it tried to restrict the RNC from having poll watchers in polls as allowed under specific state laws,” he told Watchdog.org.
Spakovsky called the terms of the decree “unjustified and unconstitutional interference with state election rules.”
Ironically, the ballot-security programs that initially got the RNC in trouble were subsequently adopted by federal election officials.
“The goal was to find outdated voter registrations, and 10 years later federal law was reformed to clean the voter rolls. That’s what RNC did. Now they’re handcuffed,” said Logan Churchwell, spokesman for the nonpartisan group True the Vote.
Bloomberg reported that Vazquez rejected the DNC’s request for a temporary restraining order against the RNC. The judge said he would make a final ruling before the election on whether the RNC has violated court orders.
Vazquez set a hearing for Friday.
Kenric Ward writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Kenricward.