On Friday, a federal judge in Ohio cracked down on voter intimidation tactics in a ruling that called out the Trump campaign and Trump adviser Roger Stone. The order came in response to a filing by Democrats, who were reacting against several things: (1) Trump’s repeated urging of his supporters to watch polling places for signs of fraud; (2) Pro-Trump white supremacist groups who publicized their intent to intimidate voters into staying home; (3) Stone’s nationwide organization of “exit polling.”
The case saw multiple rapid-fire developments in the past few days. First, an U.S. Court of Appeals in Ohio overturned the ruling in favor of the Trump campaign, which contended that the restrictions violated First Amendment rights. And now the Supreme Court has affirmed the ruling of the appeals court rather than reimpose the restrictions:
The Supreme Court left in place Sunday’s decision by a federal appeals court that threw out restrictions imposed by a lower court judge on people who monitor voting activity, saying they may not interrogate voters within 100 feet (30 meters) of a polling place, block them from entering or photograph them as they come and go.
Voter intimidation is prohibited under U.S. law, but Democrats worry that Trump’s warnings of a “rigged” election in his battle against Democrat Hillary Clinton might inspire supporters to harass minority voters and create Election Day chaos in big cities. Democrats have pushed for greater restrictions in Ohio and five other presidential election battleground states.
The vote from SCOTUS was a unanimous one with Justice Ginsberg stating that existing Ohio laws already prevent harassment tactics as outlined in the Democrats’ request: “Mindful that Ohio law proscribes voter intimidation … I vote to deny the application.” The Democrats’ request in Ohio would have added a contempt citation to this behavior, but SCOTUS has spoken.
Other states still have similar cases pending, although a federal judge in Pennsylvania also denied a similar injunction request by Democrats on Monday.