Critics concerned Trump election monitors could be armed, intimidate RVA voters

Published: Oct. 28, 2016 at 2:37 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 28, 2016 at 9:25 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - More than 1,000 Donald Trump supporters plan to monitor Election Day polls in nine Democratic-leaning cities across the country, with Richmond being one of the areas.

The grassroots organization -- Citizens for Trump -- plans to conduct exit polling in Virginia's capital, as well as in Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Fayetteville and Fort Lauderdale. Each city has a decidedly liberal electorate, rather than unpredictable swing precincts.

The move has spurred critics to question the group's intentions, potentially using a high-profile presence to intimidate inner-city voters. With less than two weeks before the election, Trump has maintained that media outlets, local registrars and state officials could rig the results of the election.

Following both conventions, Trump also suggested armed monitors are one of the few ways a fair election process can be maintained.

"We have to call up law enforcement, and we have to have the sheriffs, and the police chiefs, and everybody watching," Trump said at an Aug. 12 rally in Altoona, Pennsylvania. "Because if we get cheated out of this election … The only way they can beat us is if they cheat."

An NBC12 analysis of Virginia election law finds open carry election volunteers would be allowed 40 feet from the entrance of Richmond polling stations, excluding school grounds where weapons are prohibited.

State law allows weapons to be carried on city streets by legal permit holders, as long as the weapons fire fewer than 20 rounds and are not equipped with a silencer.

Open or concealed carry permit holders are allowed to vote with their weapons, as long as the polling sites are not school buildings and the individual has his or her permit.

"If people choose to 'show up' at polls and display their weapons, is this observation or intimidation," said Dr. Deirdre Condit, political science chair at Virginia Commonwealth University. "This will probably end up in court if it happens, depending on how it happens and where."

Citizens for Trump did not respond for comment Thursday. Representatives from the Trump Campaign and Republican Party of Virginia also declined to comment.

Democrats sued the Republican National Committee late Wednesday, alleging the RNC is now violating a decades-old agreement barring practices that intimidate minority voters at the polls.

"[The RNC] does not take part directly or indirectly in any efforts to prevent or remedy vote fraud," read a statement in response to the lawsuit. "Nor do we coordinate with the Trump campaign or any other campaign or party organization in any efforts they may make in this area."

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