Barr suggests law enforcement could be sent to polling places over ‘criminal threat’

Attorney General William Barr said late Wednesday that President Trump’s pledge to send federal law enforcement to polling locations on Election Day would be legal if the president were responding to a “particular criminal threat.” 

Barr said on CNN that Trump has not raised the possibility of sending law enforcement to polling places on Nov. 3 with him. But the attorney general said that law enforcement presence at polling sites would be warranted if federal officials determined there was a “specific investigative danger.” 

“We’ve done so in the past to enforce civil rights to make sure people were not being harassed and there was no suppression of vote against African Americans,” Barr added, referencing a stipulation in the 1965 Voting Rights Act that had the goal of facilitating minority voter participation.  

Trump last month said 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. 

“We’re going to have everything,” Trump said. 

Democratic lawmakers and civil rights groups quickly suggested Trump’s pledge could amount to voter intimidation. Federal law bars conduct that intimidates voters and some states have laws prohibiting law enforcement at polling sites. 

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in late August that his department had no authority to go to polling locations. 

“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,” he said, also noting he had not had discussions with Trump about such a move. 

Trump has repeatedly attacked mail-in voting in recent months, suggesting it puts Republicans at a disadvantage and leads to fraud. However, election experts say there is no basis for his comments. 

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.

Several states have expanded opportunities for mail-in voting in light of the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about in-person voting. Approximately 83 percent of Americans will have the opportunity to vote by mail this fall, according to The Washington Post.

In Wednesday’s interview with CNN, Barr backed some of Trump’s assertions about the voting method, claiming it’s like “playing with fire.”

“We’re a very closely divided country here, and people have to have confidence in the legitimacy of the government,” he said. “People trying to change the rules to this methodology, which as a matter of logic is very open to fraud and coercion, is reckless and dangerous, and people are playing with fire.”

Tags 2020 presidential election Chad Wolf Donald Trump Election Security mail-in ballots William Barr
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