Assuming some violence will occur in election week, plan to keep calm and remain aware
Assuming that there will be some violent provocations, we should encourage all deescalation efforts for election week, regardless of the vote outcomes.
We’ve now seen the potential for serious planned electoral violence with the attempts on the governor of Michigan and the mayor of Wichita.
We’ve also seen long-term confrontations in places like Portland, with continuing violence in places like Kenosha. The threats to intimidate voters seems not to abate, so prior planning will be essential at the local level to protect the polls.
Don’t pay much attention to individual polls; wait for polling averages to move.
This is perhaps the single piece of advice we give most often at FiveThirtyEight, but it’s especially important in the final couple weeks of a campaign. After a lull this weekend, there are likely to be a lot of polls the rest of the way out. On any given day, it will be possible to take the two or three best polls for Biden and tell a story of his holding or expanding his lead, or the two or three best polls for Trump and make a claim that the race is tightening.
Resist buying too much into those narratives. Instead, turn to polling averages like FiveThirtyEight’s that are smart at distinguishing (ahem) the signal from the noise. We do program our averages to be more aggressive in the closing days of the campaign — so if there’s a shift in the race, our average should start to detect it within a few days. But while there is such a thing as underreacting to news developments, the more common problem in the last days of a campaign is false positives, with partisans and the media trying to hype big swings in the polls when they actually show a fairly steady race.
Since the Sept. 29 presidential debate, there has been surging concern over the prospect of voter harassment at the polls. But prior to Trump’s poll-watching invitation to a national television audience, there were incidents.
Philadelphia officials last month turned away a group of poll watchers sent by the Trump campaign to satellite election sites, where they are not permitted entry under Pennsylvania law. In Virginia, Trump supporters temporarily blocked an entrance to an early voting site last month, forcing officials to offer voters escorts to cast ballots. And in Minnesota, a private security company is recruiting former military members to guard polling places, alarming election officials with the prospect of unofficial armed guards who could intimidate or harass voters. Many voting experts say these actions are not legal.
Poll watching or poll observing has long been a way for parties and outside groups to monitor voting, but such observers typically have to be certified in advance, and detailed rules vary from state to state.
Election officials are stressing buffer zones that prohibit electioneering within a certain distance of polling places, depending on the state. The Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, based at the Georgetown University Law Center, issued fact sheets for each state explaining what to do if armed individuals are near a polling site.
The Biden campaign has promised “the largest voter protection program in history,” recruiting at least 600 voting rights lawyers and 10,000 volunteers to monitor the polls.
Trump’s call for supporters to turn out at the polls comes on the heels of months of his falsehoods about the integrity of the election and a wide-ranging legal push by his campaign and surrogates aimed at making voting less accessible.
This also is the first presidential election in four decades in which the Republican National Committee can send poll watchers. Two years ago, a federal court lifted a 1982 consent decree that stemmed from the national party sending off-duty police officers to monitor poll locations in New Jersey cities, which critics said intimidated voters of color. The decree didn’t prohibit campaigns or state parties from sending observers to the polls, but the RNC couldn’t coordinate the effort. Mandi Merritt, a GOP spokesperson, said volunteers now undergo “rigorous” training and are not there to intimidate.