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“Vigilantism at the Polls”: Trump Attacks Election Integrity, Ballots & Backs Illegal Poll Watching

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“It’s a rigged election,” claimed President Trump when he and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden were asked about election integrity during last night’s debate as the two men sparred over mail-in voting. Trump ended the debate by calling for poll watchers. We speak with Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, who says Trump is promoting unlawful intimidation and voter suppression, and has vowed to go to court to block any attempt to discourage or block people from freely casting their ballots.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn, though, to President Trump and Joe Biden also sparring over mail-in voting during last night’s debate.

JOE BIDEN: The fact is that there are going to be millions of people, because of COVID, that are going to be voting by mail-in ballots — like he does, by the way. He sits behind the Resolute Desk and sends his ballot to Florida, number one.

Number two, we’re going to make sure those people who want to vote in person are able to vote, because enough poll watchers are there to make sure they can socially distance, the polls are open on time, and the polls stay open until the votes are counted.

And this is all about trying to dissuade people from voting, because he’s trying to scare people into thinking that it’s not going to be legitimate.

Show up and vote. You will determine the outcome of this election. Vote, vote, vote. If you’re able to vote early in your state, vote early. If you’re able to vote in person, vote in person. Vote whatever way is the best way for you, because you will — he cannot stop you from being able to determine the outcome of this election.

And in terms of whether or not — when the votes are counted, and they’re all counted, that will be accepted. If I win, that will be accepted. If I lose, that will be accepted. But by the way, if in fact he says he’s not sure what he’s going to accept, well, let me tell you something: It doesn’t matter, because if we get the votes, it’s going to be all over. He’s going to go. He can’t stay in power. It won’t happen. It won’t happen.

So vote. Just make sure you understand you have it in your control to determine what this country is going to look like the next four years. Is it going to change, or are you going to get four more years of these lies?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This is going to be a fraud like you’ve never seen. The other thing, it’s nice, on November 3rd, you’re watching, and you see who won the election. And I think we’re going to do well, because people are really happy with the job we’ve done. But you know what? We won’t know — we might not know for months, because these ballots are going to be all over. Take a look at what happened in Manhattan. Take a look at what happened in New Jersey. Take a look at what happened in Virginia and other places. They’re not losing 2%, 1%, which, by the way, is too much. An election could be won or lost with that. They’re losing 30 and 40%. It’s a fraud, and it’s a shame. And can you imagine where they say, “You have to have your ballot in by November 10th”? November 10th, that means that’s seven days after the election — in theory, should have been announced.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have major states with that —

CHRIS WALLACE: In fact — no, time.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: — all run by Democrats.

CHRIS WALLACE: Sir, two minutes is two minutes.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: All run by Democrats.



CHRIS WALLACE: President Trump, I —

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It’s a rigged election.

CHRIS WALLACE: You’re going to be able to continue. You have been charging for months that mail-in balloting is going to be a disaster. You say it’s rigged —


CHRIS WALLACE: — that it’s going to lead to fraud. But in 2018, in the last midterm election, 31 million people voted mail-in voting. That was a quarter, more than a quarter, of all the voters that year, cast their ballots by mail. Now that millions of mail-in ballots have gone out, what are you going to do about it? And are you counting on the Supreme Court, including a Justice Barrett, to settle any dispute?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Yeah, I think I’m counting on them to look at the ballots, definitely. I don’t think we’ll — I hope we don’t need them, in terms of the election itself. But for the ballots, I think so.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Kristen Clarke, this whole issue of the mail-in ballots and also of the president’s calling on his supporters to watch the polls, you tweeted, this was “an attempt to promote intimidation and voter suppression and it is also UNLAWFUL.” And you said, “We will go to court to block any attempt to deny, discourage or deter people from freely casting their ballots.” Talk about your sense of the president’s attempt to intimidate voters.

KRISTEN CLARKE: Well, this is an old and familiar tactic. We saw the same thing from the president in 2018, when he tweeted ominously the night before the election that there will be people out watching and they’re ready to prosecute. And, you know, they’re thinly veiled efforts to intimidate voters, and it’s all about intimidating Black and Brown voters in particular. There’s no mistake as to why he referred to Philadelphia, in particular, last night.

And there are a few things. One, these repeated claims that mail voting is fraudulent are baseless and unsubstantiated. And that’s backed even by his own FBI director, who said there is no evidence of any vote-by-mail fraud scheme in our country.

Number two, we’ve got challenges with the U.S. Postal Service, a new postmaster general installed on his watch that has worked tooth and nail to slow down mail delivery. And we are in court battling Louis DeJoy right now to restore the status quo.

Number three, there is a raging pandemic. There are some people who have no option. They cannot compromise their health or their safety to go out and vote in person this season, and so vote by mail is all that they can do.

And number four, vote by mail is not new. There are five states, in bipartisan fashion, that have almost exclusively all vote-by-mail systems that have been in place for years. There are over a dozen and a half states where more than 50% of voters voted by mail in the last presidential election. And there is support for vote by mail from both Republicans and Democrats.

My organization, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, is working tooth and nail to make sure that every eligible American can exercise their voice in our democracy. And we will not allow our efforts to be derailed by false claims of fraudulent voting or intimidation tactics that are aimed at the most vulnerable voters in our country — Black and Brown voters, people —

AMY GOODMAN: Kristen Clarke, we wanted —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Kristen — Kristen, I wanted to ask you, though — there is a danger, isn’t there, of — not so much in terms of voter fraud, but in ballots being — a higher percentage of ballots cast being rejected because of technical issues in how the voter filled out the mail-in ballot? How are you going to deal with this situation, which really requires people to be — enough poll watchers, from both parties, to be at every place where ballots, mail-in ballots, are being counted after the election, doesn’t it?

KRISTEN CLARKE: And there’s work happening before the election, as well. Right now we are suing states that are using signature-matching verification rules, for example, as a pretext to reject ballots cast by eligible voters. We’re mobilizing an army of over 20,000 lawyers in anticipation of some of the fight that may lie on the other side of November 3rd. And no doubt, there are well-funded groups that are all about suppressing the vote, that are bent on finding ways to disqualify mail-in ballots. But we are working hard to empower voters, to make sure that they follow the steps necessary to cast a successful ballot. And we’ll do everything that we can to beat back those who want to disenfranchise and silence voters who literally have no option in the middle of a pandemic but to vote by mail this season.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to end with a clip from the debate, Joe Biden criticizing Trump for nominating Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court at a time when early voting has already begun in the presidential election. The moderator, Fox’ Chris Wallace, asked Biden what action he would take, if elected.

CHRIS WALLACE: So, my question to you is — you have refused in the past to talk about it. Are you willing to tell the American people tonight whether or not you will support either ending the filibuster or packing the court —

JOE BIDEN: Whatever position I take on that, that will become the issue. The issue is, the American people should speak. You should go out and vote. You’re in voting now. Vote and let your senators know how strongly you feel.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Are you going to pack the court?

JOE BIDEN: Let — vote now.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Are you going to pack the court?

JOE BIDEN: Make sure you, in fact, let people know —

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He doesn’t want to answer the question.

JOE BIDEN: — your senators. I’m not going to answer the question, because —

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Why wouldn’t you answer that question?

JOE BIDEN: Because the question is — 

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You want to put a lot of —

JOE BIDEN: The question is —

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: — new Supreme Court justice —

JOE BIDEN: The question —


JOE BIDEN: Will you shut up, man?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Who is your — listen, who is on your list, Joe?

JOE BIDEN: This is so —

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Who is on your list?


JOE BIDEN: This is —

CHRIS WALLACE: Gentlemen, I think we’ve ended this —

JOE BIDEN: This is so unpresidential.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He’s going to pack the court.

CHRIS WALLACE: We have ended —

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And he’s not going to give a list.

CHRIS WALLACE: No, no. We have ended this segment. We’re going to move on to the second segment.

JOE BIDEN: That was really a productive segment, wasn’t it? Keep yapping, man.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The people understand, Joe.

JOE BIDEN: They sure do.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Forty-seven years, you’ve done nothing. They understand.


AMY GOODMAN: “Shut up, man” T-shirts are already being printed. I want to thank Kristen Clarke, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Marc Lamont Hill of Temple University, forthcoming book, We Still Here: Pandemic, Policing, Protest & Possibility.

Next up, we look at the climate. Stay with us.

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