A Nevada judge was none too pleased when Trump campaign lawyers asked for a list of poll workers’ names today. The poll workers in question had allegedly kept certain polling places in the greater Las Vegas area with high Latino populations open later than planned on early voting nights. The Trump campaign sued to challenge those votes, in the latest of a string of attempts by the GOP to dampen minority turnout at the polls—a timeworn tactic of voter disenfranchisement that’s playing out all over the country, from Nevada to North Carolina. Judge Gloria Sturman convened an emergency hearing, which was live-streamed online. The second the lawyers asked for the names, she was no-nonsense.
“Do you watch Twitter?” Judge Sturman pointedly asked the lawyer. “There are trolls who could get this information and harass people.”
The lawyer protested, saying the campaign’s intention was not to out the poll workers’ names. But Judge Sturman wasn’t having it, apparently conscious of the likely thousands of pairs of eyes watching the scene unfold on their desktops and laptops around the country, as Election Day was well under way. “Our records are public. They’re on the internet,” Sturman said sternly. “I’m not going to expose people who used their personal time to volunteer for their county… to public attention, ridicule, and harassment.”
A few moments later, when a rogue hearing attendee brought out a camera to record the whole transaction: “Put that camera down.”
’What They’re Doing is Cherry-Picking’
In the end, Judge Sturman denied the Trump campaign’s request for an immediate order in the lawsuit. The votes would stand. In the Twitterverse (and other online-verses) people heaped virtual praise on Sturman. This is just a taste of how today’s elections are playing out in real-time—with much help from the internet, live pundit commentary, and social platforms that surface what’s happening right now.
“She was right to protect [the poll workers], given the nature and the heat on this election—these are volunteers,” says Robert E. Lang, executive director of the Lincy Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. As volunteers in Clark County, which includes the suburbs of Las Vegas, it’s likely that some poll workers—like the voters themselves—would be part of the large Latino population that resides there. As any digital native well knows, people with minority backgrounds are disproportionately more targeted on platforms like Twitter that their white counterparts.
If nothing else, the livestream of the emergency hearing actually laid bare how ill-prepared Trump’s team of lawyers were in bringing the suit forward. “If the complaint is in fact that they kept the polls open for people in line, that’s the law,” says Heather Gerken, an election law expert at Yale Law School and former senior legal advisor to the Obama for America campaigns. “If the polls close at 8 o’clock and you have a bunch of people in line at 8 o’clock, then everyone who made it to that line gets to vote. That’s the state enforcing state law. This is not a competent suit.”
Lang agrees: “It’s clear that’s allowed. If somebody gets in line, you’re allowed to complete the line.” Trump’s campaign, for their part, dispute this legality. In a public statement, Charles Muñoz, Trump’s Nevada state director, said the early voting that happened in Clark County Friday night “should be troubling to anyone who is interested in free and fair elections.”
But more pertinent to Lang is that this suit could be a hint of how the the Trump campaign would deal with losing the election, if that happens and the candidate does not want to concede: that is, legally. If the election is called in Clinton’s favor, Lang says the Trump team will have laid the groundwork for legally questioning the result in this part of Nevada which, again, has a high Latino population. “They’re not saying there’s a systemic problem in Nevada, they’re sloppy about when they close polls,” Lang says. “What they look like they’re doing is cherry-picking.”
But thanks to Twitter and live video, even this aspect won’t be muddled for the public, either.