A rider in the Homeland Security reauthorization bill the Republican House has passed would give the occupier of the Oval Office new authority to interfere in federal elections. It would allow Trump to send armed Secret Service agents to polling places nationwide, supposedly in order to ensure the safety of their “protectees” while they are voting. Because we’ve had so many incidents of candidates being attacked while they’re trying to vote?
The rider has prompted outrage from more than a dozen top elections officials around the country, including Secretary of State William F. Galvin of Massachusetts, a Democrat, who says he is worried that it could be used to intimidate voters and said there is “no basis” for providing Trump with this new authority.
“This is worthy of a Third World country,” said Galvin in an interview. “I’m not going to tolerate people showing up to our polling places. I would not want to have federal agents showing up in largely Hispanic areas.”
“The potential for mischief here is enormous,” Galvin added. […]
“There is no discernible need for federal secret service agents to intrude, at the direction of the president, who may also be a candidate in that election, into thousands of citadels where democracy is enshrined,” according to a letter opposing the provision that was signed by 19 bipartisan secretaries of state and elections commissioners.
The letter—sent to the Senate’s majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and its minority leader, Charles Schumer, on Friday afternoon—requests that the Senate keep the Secret Service provision from the final legislation. The elections officials described the proposal as “unprecedented and shocking.”
Trump’s continued obsession about “voter fraud” that kept him from winning the popular vote in 2016 makes giving him this authority flat-out dangerous. As it stands, the Secret Service can accompany a person they are protecting—the president or a federal official—to the polls. But according to Catherine Milhoan, a spokeswoman for the Secret Service, the agency is seeking “clarifying language” to ensure agents can access polling places citing an incident in the 2016 election “when officers encountered ‘some reluctance’ from staff at a polling location.”
There does not need to be legislation that could allow the president to dispatch agents to polling places at will, particularly when there has been just one incident of confusion. All it would take is a letter from some federal authority to all state elections chiefs to provide that clarification.
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