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As Election Nears, Trump's Call For Watching The Polls Stirs Fears Of Intimidation, Violence

Voters line up outside a polling station.
Shane Morris
Adobe Stock
Although Nevada was the focus of a new report highlighting the threat of far-right extremist groups in the state, the rest of our region is also at risk.

As election day approaches, some states in the Mountain West are preparing for potential voter intimidation and violence following rhetoric from President Donald Trump.

Trump did not mince words at the first presidential debate when addressing his supporters.

“Go into the polls and watch very carefully because that's what has to happen. I am urging them to do it,” Trump said when probed by moderator Chris Wallace on respecting the election process

Some of Trump's supporters include far-right extremist groups.

recent report led by the think tank Political Research Associates says far-right militia and white supremacy groups are a real threat to the election process in Nevada.

“They see Trump as an ally, and when he says things such as, ‘Stand down, stand by,’ and uses these military terms indicating to be ready for action, it means something. Those signals are deeply impactful among those networks, and they embolden them,” said Robert Futrell, a sociologist at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Futrell has spent more than 15 years looking into white supremacist groups. He says today's networks of radical, potentially armed groups go well beyond state borders. 

“They're interconnected and ready to act in many places, and we've seen that in the last few months,” Futrell said.

As militia movements gain attention in the run-up to the election, one that stands out is the Ammon Bundy-led group “People's Rights,” which has more than 20,000 members, mostly in the Mountain West and Northwest.

“With Bundy's track record, there's always a possibility of these organizations resorting to armed conflict — or displays of arms and weapons — as a means of advancing their cause,” Chuck Tanner, research director for the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, told Utah's KUER.

Voter intimidation laws vary around the region. No states in the Mountain West prohibit guns from polling places outright.  

Following Trump's call for supporters to show up at the polls, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford emphasized that any voter intimidation would be prosecuted.   

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Beau grew up listening to public radio on the Palouse. He is a former host, reporter, producer and engineer for Montana Public Radio in Missoula. As a reporter, he is interested in stories that address issues and perspectives unique to living in the West.
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