All voters have the right to vote safely without fear of intimidation or violence. But, in the runup to the 2020 election, some partisans have sought to suppress the vote by spreading misinformation, recruiting an “army” to intimidate voters, and even encouraging paramilitary organizing at the polls.
State attorneys general are responding by sending clear messages to the public that our elections will be safe and secure, and intimidation will not be tolerated.
This guidance on messaging is illustrative. Of course, each official, individual, or group should modify as appropriate in light of applicable state law.
DOS AND DON’TS
In speaking publicly about voter intimidation, it is important to:
- Reassure voters that state attorneys general will protect their rights and the integrity of our election system;
- Empower and encourage voters to cast their ballots;
- Deter bad actors by emphasizing that state attorneys general will not tolerate intimidation; and
- Distinguish between illegal intimidation and authorized, regulated poll watching.
It is important not to:
- Amplify misinformation and other voter suppression/intimidation rhetoric by repeating it.
TOPLINE MESSAGE – REASSURANCE
- Our election systems are safe and secure.
- All voters have the right to vote safely without fear of intimidation or violence.
- State attorneys general will not let anyone interfere with the right to vote or the integrity of our election.
- State attorneys general will use every tool available to ensure a free and fair election. Your state attorney general’s job is to defend you and your vote.
- Voting is a fundamental right in our democracy, and state attorneys general are here to protect that right.
TOPLINE MESSAGE – EMPOWERMENT
- In this election, just like every election in the history of this country, the people will decide the outcome.
- We the People are so much stronger than any extremist group—but only if we exercise our right to vote.
- Casting your ballot sends a loud message that our democracy is stronger than fear or hate.
TOPLINE MESSAGE – DETERRENCE
- Voter intimidation is illegal. We will enforce the law.
- We will not tolerate voter intimidation.
- Anyone who encourages voter intimidation is playing politics with something that should be above partisanship: free and fair elections.
- In America, we solve our problems through the ballot box, not through threats and violence.
- Attorneys general will fight any attempt to intimidate voters or suppress the vote.
- We will investigate, prosecute, and punish any attempt to intimidate or interfere with voters.
DISTINGUISHING POLL WATCHING FROM VOTER INTIMIDATION
A poll watcher is an authorized and regulated representative of a candidate, political party, civic organization or proposition who is legally observing the polling place and the conduct of the election.
- Poll watching is legal. Voter intimidation is not.
- Poll watchers’ appropriate roles include alerting election officials to long lines and communicating other election day issues to the appropriate officials.
- Poll watchers cannot interfere in the voting process, aside from reporting issues to officials from their respective parties or to government authorities.
- Each state has its own requirements to become a poll watcher, but as a general rule all legitimate poll watchers must be authorized and regulated.
- Voter intimidation is illegal. Voter intimidation is any action that delays or interferes with the right to vote.
- Examples of voter intimidation can include people who are not poll workers asking voters for documentation; photographing or videotaping voters; disseminating false or misleading election information; directly speaking to or questioning voters; and blocking the entrance to a polling place.