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Our View: Voter intimidation

Door-to-door campaigns of this sort are an affront to democracy

It should come as no surprise that a right-wing group and three individuals who claim that President Joe Biden’s election was fraudulent are being sued for mounting what the lawsuit calls a “voter intimidation campaign.” It makes perfect sense that those screaming the loudest about voter fraud are themselves illegally trying to influence voting.

This situation deserves more attention than simply awaiting the outcome of the lawsuit. And that could go further than civil action. If these characters are in fact doing what the lawsuit suggests, their behavior could well be criminal. If so, it should be dealt with as such.

Targets of the lawsuit include a group calling itself the U.S. Election Integrity Plan, its two founders and a third individual associated with them. Three civil rights groups, the Colorado NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Colorado and Mi Familia Vota, brought the lawsuit in federal court. The lawsuit says that USEIP and the three associated individuals violated the Voting Rights Act and the Ku Klux Klan Act, which was enacted in the aftermath of the Civil War.

At issue is USEIP’s practice of conducting what it calls “voter verification canvassing.” That practice involves agents approaching people in their homes while wearing badges that identify them with a group name that makes it sounds as if they are connected with some department of government. Sometimes they also carry firearms.

With that, these USEIP agents ask the residents about their status as voters. They ask about their address, whether they voted in 2020, how they voted and what they may know about fraudulent voting. According to the lawsuit, they have also been known to accuse those they have accosted of fraudulently voting.

This is harassment, pure and simple. And one can safely assume that it is targeted at those who may be thought to be less than totally loyal to Donald Trump. Whether that might mean registered Democrats, people of color, women, folks with non-English sounding surnames or those with at least some college hardly matters. It is voter intimidation and it is wrong.

Worse, it is an example of how some among us now think democracy should work. It is the thinking that inspired the Klan in the first place. In the 20th century, it is the thinking that inspired Germany’s Brown Shirts and Italy’s Fascists. It is the same thinking we see today in Vladimir Putin.

In a republic such as ours, the proper response to a political disagreement is an argument. That should, of course, be conducted politely and without resort to violence. At worst, it can involve raised voices. But in a proper democracy, one tries to persuade those with differing ideas. One does not threaten or try to intimidate them.

To think – let alone act – otherwise is to invite the chaos, the violence and, in the end, the tyranny that so many of our ancestors fought and died to keep from us. It is a betrayal of what it really means to be an American.