Will voters feel intimidated by monitors?
Will voters feel intimidated by monitors?
This presidential election is among the most contentious in history, with Republican nominee Donald J. Trump calling on his supporters to watch polling places on Nov. 8 for signs of election fraud.

    On Oct. 30, the Democratic Party in Ohio, Nevada, Arizona and Pennsylvania filed suit against Trump, the Republican Party and the organization “Stop the Steal,” which asks supporters to become a “vote protector exit poller” on election day. The Ohio lawsuit specifically alleges that the three are “conspiring to threaten, intimidate, and thereby prevent minority voters in urban neighborhoods from voting in the 2016 election."
    In making the Democrats' case, the lawsuit notes the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, an effort to protect voters from intimidation in the wake of the Civil War. Here is the story, along with links and sources for further study:

Voting rights after the Civil War: Immediately after the Civil War, Congress attempted to ensure that newly freed African-Americans would have voting rights. The U.S. Justice Department’s website recounts that the Military Reconstruction Act of 1867 “allowed former Confederate States to be readmitted to the Union if they adopted new state constitutions that permitted universal male suffrage. The 14th Amendment, which conferred citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, was ratified in 1868.” Two years later, the 15th Amendment was enacted, which declared that the "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

The rise of terrorism: The Klan formed in Pulaski, Tennessee, in December 1865, roughly eight months after the surrender of the Confederacy. It soon became a paramilitary group. "Through murder, kidnapping, and violent intimidation, Klansmen sought to secure Democratic victories in elections by attacking black voters and, less frequently, white Republican leaders," recounts the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. 

Enforcement Acts: Congress enacted laws designed to protect the right to vote. The Enforcement Act of 1870 set forth “criminal penalties for interference with the right to vote, and the Force Act of 1871, … provided for federal election oversight,” according to the Justice Department.  
     The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 made private criminal acts federal crimes. The president could -- and did -- suspend the writ of habeas corpus. President Ulysses Grant made an example of South Carolina, instituting martial law in nine counties. (See Grant's proclamation suspending habeas corpus in Union County, South Carolina, at the American Presidency Project website.)
     While it is still against the law to intimidate voters, the Supreme Court subsequently found parts of the Klan Act unconstitutional. 

The legacy: The lawsuit filed in Ohio on Oct. 30 specifically mentioned the Klan Act as “the last of the Enforcement Acts -- legislation passed during Reconstruction to protect the suffrage rights of newly freed slaves, including by protecting them and their supporters from violence and harassment. President Grant requested the legislation in order to empower him to stamp out the first generation of the Ku Klux Klan, which Congress granted within a month of the request.”
    The act provides for damages and equitable relief, the lawsuit noted, “if two or more persons conspire to prevent by force, intimidation, or threat, any citizen who is lawfully entitled to vote, from giving his support or advocacy in a legal manner, toward or in favor of . . . an elector for president or vice president, or as a member of Congress of the United States; or to injure any citizen in person or property on account of such support or advocacy.”

     To know more:

    The lawsuits:


     Voter fraud: Chances like lightning strike  

     Voting rights: past, present and future

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