- Far-right groups are planning online to monitor polling sites on election day, some of them armed, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
- Stewart Rhodes, the leader of a far-right group called Oath Keepers, said his members will draw their weapons if needed.
- Rhodes said he wants to prevent “the radical left” from intimidating voters. Experts say the presence of groups like his will likely make things worse.
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Far-right groups are planning to patrol polling sites on election day, some of them armed, causing experts to worry about violent clashes and possible voter intimidation.
Stewart Rhodes, the leader of a far-right group called the Oath Keepers, told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday that his members will “be out on election day to protect people who are voting.” He said some will be carrying concealed weapons.
A QAnon-affiliated group has also been talking on Telegram, describing “heavily armed MAGA patriots” preparing for election day, according to the LA Times. The Times in turned cited the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks extremists online.
Laws differ from state to state when it comes to whether you can bring a weapon to a polling site — concealed, unconcealed, or at all.
Openly carrying a firearm at a polling station could be interpreted as voter intimidation, which is illegal in the US.
If push comes to shove, Rhodes said his members will draw their weapons.
Rhodes said he was worried about “the radical left: targeting people voting in person. A recent Pew poll found that in-person voters are more likely to be Republican this year.
“I’ll be voting in person and so will everybody else I know, and I think the radical left knows that,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes said his group will report issues to the police initially, but he’s “not confident police will do their job.”
He said if they see issues like protesters at polling sites with guns, “we’re going to intervene.”
“We’ve done it before,” he said. “If the cops are doing their job, we’ll just stand by. If they’re not, we’ll step in.”
Cassie Miller, a senior researcher with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), told the LA Times that “chances are really high that we’re going to see militia members, armed groups or Trump supporters who are armed at the polls.”
“Not only are these people willing to participate in voter intimidation, but they’re hoping to create this chaotic moment. There’s an unwillingness to accept anything but a Trump victory,” Miller said.
Devin Burghart, executive director of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, told the LA Times that his group believes far-right groups will be standing by at polls in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and that “the act of showing up armed is certainly a deterrent to folks showing up to vote.”
Burghart said people can report such groups via their app, which will alert local legal observers.