Voter intimidation in 2022 follows a long history of illegal, and racist, bullying

In Travis County, Texas, home to Austin, a local Republican Party official allegedly knocked on people’s doors in November 2022 to accuse people who cast ballots by mail of having been ineligible to vote.

In Beaumont, Texas, 300 miles east, white poll workers allegedly followed Black voters to voting machines and stood close enough behind them to see how they voted.

In Arizona, armed citizens had stationed themselves near ballot drop boxes, but a federal judge ordered them to stay away and forbade them from photographing or taking videos of people dropping off ballots, or speaking to them.

In North Carolina, several people allegedly photographed or video-recorded voters.

Those are just some of the cases of voter intimidation marring the generally orderly conduct of the 2022 midterm elections. And with Florida and Missouri blocking federal monitors from polling places, any intimidation in those states may have gone unreported. Those states said most outsiders – people who are not voters or poll workers – are not allowed in polling places.

Intimidation doesn’t always include demanding a person vote for or against a specific candidate or ballot issue, or involve making specific threats. As a scholar of election law and voter suppression, I know that any behavior reasonably calculated to dissuade a person from participating in an election counts as intimidation. This can include deceiving people about voting rules, questioning the legitimacy of their votes or accusing a person of a voting crime.

These problems may be getting more attention now, but voter intimidation has existed throughout American history, and it has almost always been directed at people of color. Yet the law provides opportunities for voters to respond to these illegal acts.