GOP Ordered to Provide More Evidence in Poll-Watching Suit

  • Trump’s running mate quoted by RNC in N.J. court filing
  • DNC has accused RNC of violating order with Trump coordination

People vote at a school on Nov. 6, 2012, in Los Angeles.

Photographer: David McNew/Getty Images

The Republican National Committee was ordered by a federal judge to describe any ballot-security measures arranged by the group for the presidential election, widening an earlier demand for evidence in a case about suspected intimidation of minority voters.

U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez in Newark, New Jersey gave the RNC until 5 p.m. Thursday to provide the Democratic National Committee with an affidavit “setting forth in detail defendant’s efforts regarding poll watching or poll observation in connection with the 2016 presidential election.”

The order, issued Wednesday, comes in a legal challenge by the DNC accusing Republicans of planning ballot-security measures in violation of a 1982 settlement agreement banning the party from such activities. The RNC has denied wrongdoing.

The ruling expands a directive issued Oct. 31 for the RNC to turn over evidence of any deals the party struck with Donald Trump’s campaign for his supporters to stand watch at polling places. Trump’s campaign isn’t restricted from such activities, which the real-estate mogul said are needed to prevent rampant voter fraud in a "rigged" election.

The RNC, trying to refute Democrats’ claims, said in a court filing Wednesday that Trump’s running mate Mike Pence and his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway were mistaken when they said publicly that the campaign and the party were coordinating nationally on “ballot-security” measures. The DNC had pounced on the remarks, citing them in court documents as proof that the RNC was involved in ballot watching.

“Governor Pence confirmed that he made the statement based on his incorrect assumptions, and that he has had no contact with the RNC about any ballot-integrity program,” the RNC said in the filing. The RNC quoted Conway as saying she “has no knowledge of, and knows of no facts indicating, the RNC’s involvement in any poll-monitoring activities in any state.”

The DNC sought to bolster its claim on Wednesday with evidence that the RNC was engaged in poll watching in Las Vegas. Maryland attorney Irasema Garza, a Democratic poll observer, described in a court filing her conversation with a Republican counterpart, named Brenda, as they watched voters cast ballots at a library in Clark County.

"As we talked throughout the day, I asked Brenda if she was serving as a poll observer for the Trump Campaign or the Republican National Committee," she said in the filing. "She told me ‘I’m with the Trump Campaign, but it’s the RNC who is really running the program.’"

The DNC, which isn’t barred from organizing poll watchers, filed several such declarations by Democratic volunteers. Some of the Republican poll watchers appeared to have detailed training material from the RNC and initially claimed they were independent poll watchers before admitting they were Republican, according to the filings.

The dispute emerged on Oct. 26 when the DNC asked for a declaration that the RNC was violating a court order from a case first filed in 1981 accusing Republicans of trying to intimidate minority voters in a New Jersey election. The settlement, called a consent decree, bars the RNC from organizing any poll-watching measures until 2017.

A violation could result in an eight-year extension, RNC lawyers said in a memo to staff in March reminding them not to engage in any poll-watching activities. The RNC filed a copy of the memo in court as evidence that they take it seriously.

"With one federal election left before its expected sunset, you do not want to be the person responsible for extending the consent decree into its fifth decade," the memo said.

The case is Democratic National Committee v. Republican National Committee, 81-cv-03876, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).

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