Ballot Security Task Force

Ballot Security Task Force

The National Ballot Security Task Force was a controversial group founded in 1981 by the Republican National Committee located in New Jersey, as a means to win a gubernatorial election. The Ballot Security Task Force was alleged to have carried out 'voter-suppression' and intimidation.

The task force consisted of a group of armed, off-duty police officers wearing armbands, who were hired to patrol polling sites in African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods of Newark and Trenton.[1]

Initially, 45,000 letters were mailed (using an outdated voter registration list) to primarily Latino and African-American citizens.[2] These letters were later returned as non-deliverable and the 45,000 addresses were converted into a list of voters. [3] These voters were then challenged by the BSTF. In addition, the Republican National Committee filed a request for election supervisors to strike these voters from the rolls, but the commissioners of registration refused when they discovered that the RNC had used outdated information.[4]

On New Jersey's election day in 1981, the BSTF posted large signs, without identification but with an official appearance, reading




Armed officers in the task force were drawn from the ranks of off-duty county deputy sheriffs and local police, who prominently displayed revolvers, two-way radios, and BSTF armbands. BSTF patrols challenged and questioned voters at the polls.[4]

A civil lawsuit was filed after the election, charging the RNC with illegal harassment and voter intimidation.[6] The suit was settled in 1982, when the state and national Republican parties signed a pledge in U.S. District Court saying that they would not allow tactics that could intimidate Democratic voters, though they did not admit any wrongdoing.[7]

As a result of the task force's interference in the gubernatorial election, Democrat James J. Florio lost to Republican Thomas H. Kean by 1,797 votes. The court order that resulted was invoked in a number of similar incidents throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. The pattern of sending mailings and creating questionable challenge lists is a model that has also endured, and has been compared by Democrats to the Republican use (and alleged misuse) of the 'scrub list' in Florida during the Presidential election in 2000.[8]

In 1986, the Republican Party hired an outside company to conduct another ballot security initiative, with the intent of challenging the voting eligibility of 31,000 voters in Louisiana, the majority of whom were black. According to a 2002 study on voter intimidation practices by the Temple Political & Civil Rights Law Review, when Democrats again sued over the ballot security task force, they came across a Republican document stating that the Louisiana program "could keep the African-American vote down considerably." [9] Due to the evidence found in this case, in 1987, the RNC was required to enter into an agreement with the Democrats, which called for the federal courts to pre-approve all of the Republican’s ballot security programs.

In Philadelphia’s 2003 mayoral election, there was a very organized voter intimidation that occurred. In an attempt to intimidate African Americans and discourage them from voting, the Katz campaign (or one of its associates), organized a group of men dressed in dark clothing wearing pins with insignia of federal or local law enforcement. These men were sent into areas of the city with large African American populations and went around giving misinformation about the types of I.D.’s they needed to vote. The men were telling the African American voters that they needed a major credit card, passport, or driver’s license in order to vote, none of which was true. [9] This voter intimidation by the Republican Party was just another one of many voting scandals that have been carried out in many elections over the past 20 years.

It is a common debate of whether ballot security programs are legitimate. There is undoubtedly some voter fraud in the U.S. from both Democratic and Republican parties. Currently, programs are being created to help prevent voting discrimination and fraud. Even after the Voting Rights Act was passed more than 40 years ago, ballot security task forces continue to pose a threat to minority voters.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Sullivan, Joseph F. (1993-11-13). "Florio's Defeat Revives Memories of G.O.P. Activities in 1981". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  2. ^ Dugger, Ronnie (2004-09-20). "Poll Position". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  3. ^ Smith, Glenn W. (2004). The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. John Wiley and Sons. p. 124. ISBN 0471667633. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  4. ^ a b United States Congress (2004-10-05). Maximizing Voter Choice. Library of Congress. p. 65. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  5. ^ Felzenberg, Alvin S. (2006). Governor Tom Kean. Rutgers University Press. p. 184. ISBN 0813537991. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  6. ^ Piven, Frances Fox; Cloward, Richard A. (2000). Why Americans Still Don't Vote. Beacon Press. p. 245. ISBN 0807004499. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  7. ^ Raymond, Allen (2008). How to Rig an Election. Simon & Schuster. p. 17. ISBN 1416552227. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  8. ^ People For the American Way / NAACP (2004). "The Long Shadow of Jim Crow: Voter Suppression in America". Retrieved 2008-10-07. [dead link]
  9. ^ a b "Voter Terrorism". Retrieved 2011-21-02. 

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