Civil rights group condemns Trump threat to put law enforcement at polls: Tactic 'right from the Jim Crow playbook'

Civil rights group condemns Trump threat to put law enforcement at polls: Tactic 'right from the Jim Crow playbook'
President Donald J. Trump talks to members of the press Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J., prior to boarding Marine One for his flight to New York City. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

A civil rights group Friday denounced President Donald Trump's threat to place law enforcement officers at polling places for the November election, calling it an effort suppress voter turnout.

"In no uncertain terms, we fully condemn any plans that President Trump has to deploy federal law enforcement, U.S. attorneys, or local sheriffs to our polling sites in November," Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committeee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement.

In an interview with Fox News Thursday evening, Trump continued his assault on universal mail-in ballots amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and suggested he'd deploy federal agents to assist in monitoring the election polling sites in November.

"This is an old and familiar tactic pulled right from the Jim Crow playbook and often specifically targeted at Black voters and voters of color," Clarke continued. "This voter suppression scheme is intended to intimidate voters and cause a chilling effect on the electorate."

"We're going to have everything," Trump said. "We're going to have sheriffs and we're going to have law enforcement and we're going to hopefully have U.S. attorneys and everybody—attorney generals [sic]. But it's very hard."

Citing federal laws including the Voting Rights Act, Clarke warned, "such a deployment would likely run afoul of laws that prohibit intimidation of voters. We will use every tool in our arsenal to block thinly veiled efforts aimed at discouraging participation by eligible voters this election season."

The president, who himself voted via absentee ballot in this week's Florida primary, said Thursday: "A lot of people use absentee, but that's when you go through a process. You ask for it, they send it to you, and it's very secure. There is nothing like going to the voter's booth, but absentee is good."

The U.S. Senate Friday heard testimony from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy following outrage over the removal of sorting machines and mailboxes earlier this month, which advocates say will affect mail-in ballot delivery.

DeJoy is expected to appear in front of the U.S. House Oversight Committee on Monday, August 24.

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