Thirty-five years after it was first imposed, a judge has lifted a consent decree barring the Republican National Committee from pursuing “ballot security” measures.
In their 1981 lawsuit to stop the RNC from engaging in certain practices at the polls, the Democratic National Committee attested that in a New Jersey gubernatorial election, the RNC had sent sample ballots to communities of color, and then had the names for each ballot returned as undeliverable removed from voter rolls. Democrats also alleged that the RNC hired off-duty cops to patrol majority-minority precincts, wearing “National Ballot Security Task Force” armbands. These details were enough to secure a consent decree between the two party organizations and the court in 1982, stopping the GOP from engaging in such voter-intimidation practices.
Except, Democrats alleged, they didn’t stop. The consent decree was updated in 1987 after Republicans created a voter-challenge list of black voters from whom letters had been returned as undeliverable, with an RNC official saying that the list could “keep the black vote down considerably.” The decree was modified again in 1990 after a court ruled the RNC had violated it by not telling state parties about its provisions, which had led to the North Carolina GOP sending 150,000 postcards to potential voters listing voting regulations, in an apparent attempt at intimidation. The GOP violated the court order again in 2004 after yet another voter-challenge list targeted black voters.