Specter of Election Violence Looms

As early voting begins and November 3 approaches, concerns about militia groups have been rising. Militia groups have caused tension (and violence) at racial justice protests and they say they plan to intimidate voters at the polls. The thwarted attempt by a paramilitary group to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) and overthrow the government has stoked even more fear about these groups. 

These groups often claim authority from the Second Amendment’s reference to a “well-regulated militia,” but in fact, they have no constitutional authority to exist. Voters of color are particularly worried militias are among the dangers that could await them at the polls, according to a new survey for Axios. 

  • All 50 states prohibit private, unauthorized militias and military units from engaging in activities reserved for the state militia, including law enforcement activities, as exemplified in this catalog of laws for each of the 50 states by Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP).
  • Voter intimidation is also illegal in all 50 states. This fact sheet from ICAP outlines voter intimidation laws, what conduct constitutes voter intimidation, and what to do if you experience voter intimidation.

So what should you do if  you see or experience voter intimidation?

  • If you fear imminent violence, call 9-1-1.
  • Notify your local election official at your polling place.
  • Document what you saw or experienced: what happened, where, and when, and whether any voters were deterred from voting.
  • Call Election Protection at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683).