US President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has been videotaping voters at ballot drop boxes in Philadelphia, an illegal practice that Pennsylvania’s attorney general said amounts to voter intimidation.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, said Pennsylvania law does not permit poll watchers to videotape voters at drop boxes, according to The New York Times.
"Our entire system of voting is built on your ballot being private and your choice to vote being a personal one," Shapiro said. "Depending on the circumstance, the act of photographing or recording a voter casting a ballot could be voter intimidation, which is illegal."
The Trump campaign made a formal complaint to Philadelphia officials on October 16, saying a campaign representative had found voters putting two or three ballots at drop boxes, instead of only their own.
The campaign said the conduct was a “blatant violations of the Pennsylvania election code,” according to a letter from Linda Kerns, a lawyer representing the Trump campaign, which was obtained by the Times.
"This must be stopped," said the attorney, who added that the findings "undermine the integrity of the voting process."
Pennsylvania is key to Trump’s reelection bid, but polls consistently show the president trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the battleground state.
Pennsylvania law only allows voters to cast their own ballots unless they are assisting someone with a disability or another deterrent.
"Third-party delivery is permitted in certain circumstances," said Benjamin Field, a deputy city solicitor and counsel to the city Board of Elections,
The Times suggested that the Trump campaign’s aggressive strategy in Philadelphia is aimed at cracking down on people delivering ballots for family members or anyone else who is unable to do so themselves.
The surveillance of voters aligns with a broader strategy by the campaign to amplify relatively minor voting issues to bolster claims by Trump that the election is rigged.
In recent months, the president’s campaign has been calling on supporters to enlist alongside “battle-tested Team Trump operatives” to monitor ballot boxes, part of an effort to find evidence to back up Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about widespread voter fraud.
There are concerns that the Trump campaign’s push to create “an army of poll watchers” will result in his far-right supporters showing up at polling stations to intimate voters on Election Day.
Voting rights activists and government officials said they worry Trump's supporters will scare away Democratic voters fearful of confrontation, especially the minority voters.
During the first presidential debate late last month, Trump personally appealed to his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully.”
Trump has repeatedly refused to commit to accepting the outcome of the November 3 election, claiming that mail-in voting is vulnerable to widespread fraud and accusing the Democrats of trying to steal the election.