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Amy Coney Barrett Refuses To Say Whether Voter Intimidation Is Illegal. (It Is.)

The Senate Judiciary Committee continued questioning Barrett Tuesday afternoon, including one about voter intimidation tactics being used around the presidential election.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 13, 2020. | Getty Images
Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 13, 2020. | Getty Images

Judge Amy Coney Barrett refused to say whether it’s illegal to intimidate voters in the U.S. during the second day of her Senate confirmation hearings to the Supreme Court. It is.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said “poll watchers” with “special forces experience” are being recruited by what an “outside contractor” in Minnesota — and similarly across the country.

President Trump’s campaign has repeatedly urged his base to become “poll watchers”  in an apparent attempt to stoke fears about his illegitimate claims that Democrats will commit voter fraud ahead of the election.  

“This is clear voter intimidation. Similar efforts are going on around the country solicited by President Trump’s false claims of massive voter fraud,” Klobuchar said. “Judge Barrett, under federal law, is it illegal to intimidate voters at the polls?” 

“I can’t characterize the facts in a hypothetical situation and I can’t apply the law to a hypothetical set of facts,” Barrett said. “I can’t answer questions like that.”

Klobuchar responded by citing law. 

“Well I’ll make it easier: USC-594 outlaws anyone who intimidates, threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such person to vote,” she said. “This is a law that has been on the books for decades.”

“Do you think a reasonable person would be intimidated by the presence of armed civilian groups at the polls?” Klobuchar asked. 

“It’s not something that’s really appropriate for me to comment on,” Barrett said. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Barrett throughout Tuesday about contentious issues including Roe v. Wade, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and voter suppression. Barrett said she doesn’t “have an agenda” or commitments on abortion rights and the ACA — despite having a demonstrated history of being anti-choice and critical of the ACA. Barrett also said on Tuesday she doesn’t think Roe v. Wade is a precedent because of the push to overrule it.  

Barrett hasn’t given a straight answer to many questions, claiming her goal is to “adhere to the law” and only give her thoughts on a case-by-case basis. 

Barrett’s nomination and GOP senators’ push to confirm her to the Supreme Court just weeks before the election has been widely criticized. Multiple polls have found the majority of U.S. voters think the winner of the election should fill the court’s open seat.

88 professors from Notre Dame, where Barrett works as a law professor, signed an open letter published Tuesday to Barrett urging her to halt the nomination process. 

The letter states that the hearings’ proximity to the election is “an exercise in raw power politics,” and the American people should decide the next Supreme Court Justice by way of electing a president. The letter also said Barret should pause the process out of respect for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wish to not be replaced before the election.

“The politics of your nomination, as you surely understand, will further inflame our civic wounds, undermine confidence in the court, and deepen the divide among ordinary citizens, especially if you are seated by a Republican Senate weeks before the election of a Democratic president and congress,” the letter read.