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Judge ends decades-old court order in GOP voting rights case

January 9, 2018

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge in New Jersey has officially terminated a consent decree prohibiting the Republican National Committee from engaging in tactics that can lead to voter intimidation, ending a legal dispute that dates back to President Ronald Reagan’s first term.

The decree was to expire last month, but U.S. District Judge John Vazquez allowed the Democratic National Committee more time to try and show violations had occurred, which included allowing lawyers to question former Republican National Committee official Sean Spicer about his activities at Trump Tower on the night of the 2016 election.

In an order signed Monday in Newark, Vazquez wrote he was terminating the decree “because the DNC did not prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, a violation of the Consent Decree before December 1, 2017.”

Lawyers for the RNC have contended in court filings that the organization has been in compliance with the decree for years.

Voting rights advocates say it is still needed to prevent intimidation at the polls. They point to President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud in last year’s election and his formation of a commission to study potential election fraud. Trump disbanded the commission last week but said its mission would be transferred to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The consent decree had its origins in the aftermath of the 1981 New Jersey gubernatorial election. The Democratic National Committee sued the Republican National Committee, alleging the RNC helped intimidate black voters by stationing off-duty law enforcement officers, some with guns visible, at polling places in urban areas.

Without admitting wrongdoing, the RNC agreed the following year to enter into a consent decree that restricted its ability to engage in ballot security activities.

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