Whether it’s a sign that he’s worried about the results of this week’s midterm elections or simply further affirmation that he neither understands nor trusts the electoral process, President Donald Trump on Monday issued an overt attempt to intimidate voters with an ominous tweet warning of “Maximum Criminal Penalties allowed by law” for anyone caught casting their ballots illegally (which, as we know, almost never happens).
After dissolving his laughably unnecessary “election integrity” commission at the beginning of this year, Trump has stayed largely quiet on the almost entirely invented, statistically insignificant prospect of widespread voter fraud. However, in the weeks leading up to the midterm election, Trump began to resurrect the phantom threat of illegal voting by lumping it into his fear-mongering about immigrants—a clear part of his administration’s pre-election effort to rally his base with doom-and-gloom racism.
To make matters worse, Trump’s tweeted threat appears to not just be empty words. In a press release issued shortly after the president’s message, the Department of Justice announced it would be sending personnel to 35 jurisdictions in 19 states to monitor Tuesday’s elections.
“Voting rights are constitutional rights, and they’re part of what it means to be an American,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement. “The Department of Justice has been entrusted with an indispensable role in securing these rights for the people of this nation.”
He continued (emphasis mine):
This year we are using every lawful tool that we have, both civil and criminal, to protect the rights of millions of Americans to cast their vote unimpeded at one of more than 170,000 precincts across America. Citizens of America control this country through their selection of their governmental officials at the ballot box. Likewise, fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated. Fraud also corrupts the integrity of the ballot.
The DOJ’s focus on alleged threats of fraud—which again, are essentially non-existent!—coupled with the president’s persistent warnings about illegal voting make it clear that this administration is using the guise of law enforcement to not-so-subtly cloak their efforts to intimidate the public away from the polls.