November 1, 2022 — In advance of the midterm election next week, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) released a new report, Threatening Democracy: Voter Intimidation in the U.S., whichoutlines historical and current ways that voter intimidation has been deliberately used to keep voters from the polls – and what can be done to stop it.
The report comes just days after a federal judge ruled that vigilantes in Arizona could stake out ballot drop boxes, a concerning ruling at a time when voter intimidation is on the rise in that state and around the country. It also comes as Governor Ron DeSantis Florida sent SWAT teams to invade the homes of voters with prior felony convictions, even though they had been authorized to vote by their local election offices—a tactic which is already frightening othersaway from voting.
The new report from MAP details which states are most at risk of voter intimidation and lays out a road map for how states can ensure that every eligible voter is able to cast their vote without fear of harassment or violence.
"Voter intimidation should be concerning to everyone who believes in a fair and free democracy. But what’s even more concerning is that the rising tide of voter intimidation is actually often being coordinated by politicians who would rather win at any cost than uphold democracy,” said Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director of Movement Advancement Project. “Our guidelines provide best practices every state should put in place, and we also provide a list of intimidation tactics to watch for this election in early voting and on Election Day.”
The report identifies essential ways to help stem the resurgence of voter intimidation:
Proper regulation of partisan poll watchers: States can allow poll watching while also preventing voter intimidation by ensuring proper regulation and training. For example, election officials must be allowed to remove poll watchers who interfere with voting, are threatening, or who are otherwise disruptive.
Similarly, states should set clear guidelines for where poll watchers can be present within polling places and what they are allowed to do. States that allow partisan poll watchers to move through a polling place with little to no restrictions, for example, increase the likelihood of voter intimidation. Poll watchers should be able to observe election officials but should not be allowed near a voting booth.
All poll watchers should be required to undergo robust training to ensure they understand proper election procedures and to combat misinformation.
Banning firearms in polling places: Only 10 states explicitly ban guns from polling places, including unlikely states such as Arizona and Texas. Voters in at least 28 states have reported seeing guns at polling places, which can both intimidate voters and even keep them from casting their vote.
Properly regulating law enforcement at polling places: The general presence of law enforcement at polling places can result in a sharp reduction in voter turnout. This is particularly true for Black voters who faced a long history of harassment, intimidation, and violence from police. States should have clear guidelines on when law enforcement can be present at polls and what their role should be if they are called to a poll for security concerns, for example.
"A core tenet of a democracy is that every eligible voter should feel safe and unpressured when casting their ballot. Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more intimidation, pressure and harassment at the polls and ballot drop boxes. What we see in this midterm must inform what legislatures do next year to protect our democracy,” said Mushovic.
Founded in 2006, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) is an independent, nonprofit think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all.
MAP works to ensure that all people have a fair chance to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, take care of the ones they love, be safe in their communities, and participate in civic life. MAP is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and donations to MAP are 100% tax-deductible. You can read more about MAP and the work we do on our About page.