Washington, D.C. – As White Nationalists pledge to “monitor” the polls in Philadelphia on Election Day, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is urging Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta at the Department of Justice to work with county officials to ensure proper enforcement of election monitoring rules that protect every American’s right to vote. The letter comes following harrowing reports of a neo-Nazi group planning to suppress minority voting in Philadelphia through the use of surveillance cameras and intimidation tactics. United States Attorneys for the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts of Pennsylvania will also receive a copy of the letter today.
“The integrity of the election process is foundational to the strength of our democracy,” Senator Casey said. “These plans to monitor the polls are little more than thinly veiled attempts to suppress and delegitimize the votes of predominantly minority citizens, inflected with innuendo that recalls dark times in our country’s civil rights struggle. These calls are more than wrong and irresponsible; if executed, they could be illegal. We have come too far to allow a group of white nationalists to intimidate minority voters in Philadelphia or anywhere throughout the nation.”
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Attorney General Lynch and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta:
The integrity of the election process is foundational to the strength of our democracy. We should be proud, then, that empirical evidence finds few cases of voter fraud in our country of 325 million people. Still, from fringe white nationalist groups to the Republican presidential nominee, some claim the 2016 election will be contaminated by partisan conspiracy, specifically citing fraud in Philadelphia, and call on supporters to monitor polling places or even disrupt voting on Election Day. To guard against voter intimidation, local jurisdictions have rules governing the authorization and conduct of poll watchers. District Election Officers (DEOs), appointed by U.S. Attorneys, are responsible for overseeing each district’s handling of election fraud and voting rights abuses. I urge the Department of Justice to provide necessary resources, guidance and support to its U.S. Attorneys and their designated DEOs to assist coordination with county officials and ensure proper enforcement of election monitoring rules that protect every American’s right to vote.
In recent days, the leader of a neo-Nazi publication reportedly promised to send “an army of Alt-Right nationalists to watch the polls” on Election Day. An allied group claimed his organization is covertly setting up cameras at polling locations in Philadelphia. An advisor to the Republican presidential nominee revealed a plan to send as many as 2,000 volunteers to Philadelphia to detect suspicious voting patterns. And the nominee himself, warning of voter fraud in Philadelphia, has called on supporters in rural areas of Pennsylvania to “go around and watch other polling places” and “watch other communities.”
In the absence of credible and substantial evidence to support the claim that elections in Philadelphia are subject to widespread fraud, these calls to action are little more than thinly veiled attempts to suppress and delegitimize the votes of predominantly minority citizens, inflected with innuendo that recalls dark times in our country’s civil rights struggle. These calls are more than wrong and irresponsible; if executed, they could be illegal.
In Philadelphia, according to the website of the Office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners, the board in charge of elections, “Poll Watcher Certificates must be authorized in advance by the candidate or political party to have a certificate issued. All Poll Watchers must be registered voters in Philadelphia.” To the extent individuals or teams of individuals come to Philadelphia or other counties where they are not registered to vote and attempt to act as poll watchers, they may be acting in violation of laws protecting voters against intimidation.
Understanding that the Department of Justice feels limited in its capacity to observe elections in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder, I urge the Department to work with U.S. Attorneys, their DEOs and local officials to target resources and support to jurisdictions where voter suppression efforts may unlawfully impede access to the franchise for any American, regardless of race or party affiliation.
I appreciate your prompt attention to this important matter.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator
CC: United States Attorney Zane David Memeger, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
CC: United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, Middle District of Pennsylvania
CC: United States Attorney David J. Hickton, Western District of Pennsylvania