Joe Biden’s campaign is assembling hundreds of lawyers nationwide to monitor potential voting issues as part of its extensive voter protection efforts heading into the general election.
Speaking at a virtual fundraiser Wednesday, the presumptive Democratic nominee said his team has organized 600 lawyers and others across the country to “try to figure out why the chicanery is likely to take place.” He also said they have recruited 10,000 people as volunteers.
The efforts come as Biden repeatedly has warned President Donald Trump may work to disrupt the election, and he’s accused the President and Republicans of pursuing a “systemic program on vote suppression.” The campaign is also bracing for how the coronavirus pandemic could impact voting in the fall, from in-person voting to mail-in ballots.
“We’re continuing to fight any effort to exploit the pandemic for political purposes, support the countless state and local officials working like hell to make voting safe and accessible for citizens, especially the most vulnerable, or call out local rules that don’t adequately ensure access to vote,” Biden said at the fundraiser.
The campaign is working on its voter protection efforts in coordination with the Democratic National Committee, which started bulking up its voter protection infrastructure last year ahead of the primaries. Democratic officials believe early investments in the program will pay off heading into this fall’s general election campaign.
“Too often the norm in a campaign is that voter protection staff come on the ground in September or even sometimes in October unfortunately, and they’re sort of on-hand to triage issues that come up, on Election Day or leading up to it,” said David Bergstein, the director of battleground state communications for the DNC. “That model is not the best one to be utilizing particularly this cycle.”
Campaign officials said Democrats, in coordination with state parties, other campaign committees and advocacy groups, have voter protection directors on the ground in 19 key states, including battlegrounds like Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Those directors are already engaged in a range of activities – working with local election officials, monitoring developments on voter files, like voter purges, and recruiting volunteers. They’re also keeping an eye on litigation that could affect voting heading into the fall.
States also will have a combination of staff and volunteers, many with a legal background who will be trained in the rules and laws specific to their state, campaign officials said. These volunteers can be used for initiatives like phone hotlines to provide guidance to voters about their voting options, including in-person and mail-in voting.
“It is really a focus of our on-the-ground program to make sure that we are helping voters understand all of the options available to them, and that we are doing our best to advocate for as many in-person opportunities on Election Day, during early vote, and also helping lift barriers to vote by mail,” said Rachana Desai Martin, the Biden campaign’s national director of voter protection.
Vote-by-mail efforts have come into sharp focus since the coronavirus pandemic hit the US this spring. Trump has long decried mail-in voting, and has ramped up his criticism in recent weeks by spreading widely debunked lies on social media about alleged voter fraud in the United States and making false accusations against states that are expanding mail-in options.
As part of his most recent efforts, Trump took to Twitter in late June to stoke fears about a rigged election, claiming in all-caps, “RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!” He went on to tweet that 2020 will be the most “RIGGED” election in the nation’s history “unless this stupidity is ended.”
Those claims are widely debunked, and CNN’s fact-check team has said of these claims that the President is “lying.”
Biden has condemned Trump for stoking fear of voter fraud and said that ineffective voting practices are his “single greatest concern.”
Last month, Biden went as far as suggesting the President might “try to steal the election,” before knocking Trump for the hypocrisy of railing against mail-in voting when he casts his own ballots by mail.
“This is a guy who said that all mail-in ballots are fraudulent while he sits behind the desk in the Oval Office and writes his mail-in ballot to vote in a primary,” Biden told The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah in June.
The former vice president told donors Wednesday he plans to sound the alarm about potential voter suppression efforts and the President, saying he’ll “continue to shout from the rooftops: ‘be careful—he’s coming.’”
Biden later added, “It’s going to be hard. And if it’s close – watch out.”
Justin Clark, a senior political adviser and top lawyer on the Trump reelection campaign, accused the former vice president of “lying and fear mongering.”
“Democrats are the ones trying to fundamentally change how we vote,” Clark said. “They are inserting chaos and confusion into our voting process because it is the only way they can win. The President is committed to fair and free elections and ensuring everyone who is eligible to vote, gets their vote counted.”
Biden has called on Congress multiple times to provide funding for states to ensure more options exist for voters in the general election. He has pointed to the Wisconsin primary, calling its inefficiency and problematic voting process “a giant warning for the nation.” Amid efforts to flatten the coronavirus curve in April, Wisconsin proceeded with in-person voting after courts halted Democratic efforts to delay the primary and extend the deadline for ballots to be returned by mail.
“Congress has to do its part and get them the funding they need,” Biden said of states during a fundraiser in mid-April. “Trump’s already attempting to undermine the election with false claims about voter fraud, threatening to block essential coronavirus assistance of any additional funds to go to the Postal Service.”
Among the proposals the presumptive Democratic nominee has called for to ensure safe elections include same-day registration, passing legislation that would “boost funding to states for new secure paper-based voting system” and the sharing of election security information between state and federal governments. The nation also has to make clear to foreign governments, Biden has said, “that there will be a steep price to pay for interfering with elections.”