Acting DHS chief says he has no authority to send agents to polling stations after Trump comments
Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Sunday that DHS has no authority to send federal agents to oversee polling locations in November, despite President Trump’s vow to have a federal law enforcement presence at the polls on Election Day.
“That’s not what we do at the Department of Homeland Security,” Wolf said on CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked about Trump’s comments. “We have law enforcement authorities and law enforcement officers at the department. We have express authorities given to us by Congress and this is not one of them.”
“This is not a mission for the Department of Homeland Security,” Wolf added, noting that he has not had any discussions with Trump about sending federal agents to polling sites.
Asked about the prospect of Trump requesting DHS send armed agents to polling locations on Election Day, Wolf again stated, “We don’t have any authority to do that at the department.”
Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf says the President has not discussed deploying law enforcement agents from his department to polling locations. “That’s not what we do at the Department of Homeland Security.” #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/VLeWzOv2Of
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 23, 2020
Trump raised alarm last Thursday after saying during an interview on Fox News that he planned to send sheriffs, federal law enforcement and U.S. attorneys to polling locations in November as part of an effort to prevent voter fraud. The pledge immediately prompted scrutiny from voting rights advocates and others, who suggested the vow could amount to illegal voter intimidation.
Federal law prohibits any conduct intimidating voters. Some states have laws banning law enforcement officials from having a presence at polling sites on Election Day. For example, in Pennsylvania, a state law bars police officers from being at polling locations unless they are there to vote or serve a warrant, according to a memo from the Brennan Center for Justice.
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told NBC News that Trump’s plan “would likely run afoul of laws that prohibit intimidation of voters.”
“[Our group] will use every tool in our arsenal to block thinly veiled efforts aimed at discouraging participation by eligible voters this election season,” she added.
Trump has repeatedly spread unfounded claims about voter fraud in recent months as more states expand mail-in voting opportunities because of the coronavirus pandemic. The president has said that it puts Republicans at a disadvantage and has claimed that it could rig the election.
Election experts say there is no basis for Trump’s claims, however.
Five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — already hold elections almost entirely by mail. Meanwhile, 33 states and the District of Columbia give voters the option. About 83 percent of Americans will have the opportunity to vote by mail this fall, according to The Washington Post.