Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s running mate for vice president, visited the burned-out Republican offices in Hillsborough to lend support to those who worked there and were thankfully not present some weeks ago when some kind of Molotov cocktail set off a fire. Obviously, this was a dangerous, despicable act; whether it was politically motivated remains to be seen.
In any case, during his visit Pence seemed to urge GOP supporters in particular to watch polling places, presumably for voting fraud. The suggestion had a hint of intimidation about it, and that’s worrisome. Voter fraud in the United States is incredibly rare, contrary to the arguments Republicans in a number of states have made when trying to pass (as in North Carolina) various voter suppression laws.
Voters should watch these “watchers,” particularly if the watchers aren’t staying behind designated areas near polling places beyond which campaigning is not supposed to take place. And informal “poll watchers” aren’t supposed to question people or try to inhibit them. Given Trump’s wild, angry and now off-the-rails campaign, one in which he has abandoned all rules of civility, it’s fair to worry that some of his supporters might try to question other voters or intimidate them. After all, their candidate has now flat-out said that this election is “rigged,” a preposterous notion that undermines the very system in which Trump is participating.
Pence is right in one sense, that voters should be aware. They should — of those who presume to “watch” them exercise their rights.