Arguing that the Republican National Committee is collaborating with the Donald Trump presidential campaign in an alleged effort to intimidate minority voters, the Democratic National Committee on Wednesday asked a federal judge in New Jersey to hold the GOP in contempt of court.
The main claim is that the GOP is violating a court order against such tactics, issued in 1982 and still in effect. The Supreme Court refused to disturb that order three years ago, turning aside a challenge to it by the RNC.
The new motion was accompanied by 29 exhibits — news articles and campaign documents — that were said to illustrate the Trump campaign’s publicly declared plan to send poll-watchers to keep an eye on “certain communities” — supposedly, code words for minority neighborhoods in major cities.
Quoting statements that candidate Trump has been making at political rallies when he has said the presidential election this year is “rigged,” the motion said, for example, that Trump “has even encouraged his ‘watchers’ to act like vigilante law-enforcement officers.”
The Democratic filing conceded that “certain RNC officials have attempted to distance themselves from some of the Trump campaign’s more recent statements,” but it then argued that there is “ample evidence that Trump has enjoyed the direct and tacit support of the RNC in its ‘ballot security’ endeavors, including the RNC”s collaboration on efforts to prevent supposed ‘rigging;’ and ‘voter fraud’.”
It quoted vice presidential candidate Mike Pence, Indiana’s governor, as saying in August that the RNC was coordinating with the campaign on “ballot integrity” initiatives, and it cited a story published last week by the Washington Post quoting campaign manager Kellyanne Conway as confirming the coordination in “precincts around the country.”
Besides asking the District Court in Newark to hold the RNC in contempt for allegedly violating the consent decree, the DNC filing asked that the judge issue a new court order forbidding such tactics, require the RNC to get reimbursement from the Trump campaign and state political groups of any funds used for “ballot security,” circulate the consent decree against “ballot security” measures to all of its field offices, promptly report to the court any efforts by the DNC or its employees, agents or affiliates to carry out such efforts, and extend the consent order for eight more years from now (it is currently due to expire on December 1, 2017, following its renewal in 2009).
The consent decree in the case grew out of Democrats’ complaints that the RNC in the early 1980s had engaged in intimidation of black voters in New Jersey. The order generally bars the RNC from organizing or directing similar efforts if the purpose is to deter voters from casting their ballots.
After the decree was extended for eight years in 2009, the RNC returned to the Newark court, seeking to have the order vacated. The judge refused to do so, as did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The RNC took its challenge to the Supreme Court, which denied review on January 14, 2013. There were no noted dissents.
The DNC motion is in the form of a demand that the RNC “show cause” why it should not be held in contempt for violating the consent order. It asks that the federal judge act speedily, noting that the presidential election is less than two weeks away and that early voting has already begun in a number of states, including New Jersey. The RNC’s alleged violations, it asserted, will continue until the court acts.