Ballot Security Task Force
The National Ballot Security Task Force (BSTF) was a controversial group founded in 1981 by the Republican National Committee located in New Jersey, as a means prevent voter fraud in the gubernatorial election. The Ballot Security Task Force was alleged to have carried out 'voter-suppression' and intimidation.
The task force consisted of a group of armed, off-duty police officers wearing armbands, who were hired to patrol polling sites in African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods of Newark and Trenton.
Initially, 45,000 letters were mailed (using an outdated voter registration list) to primarily Latino and African-American citizens. These letters were later returned as non-deliverable and the 45,000 addresses were converted into a list of voters. These voters were then challenged by the BSTF. In addition, the Republican National Committee filed a request for election supervisors to strike these voters from the rolls, but the commissioners of registration refused when they discovered that the RNC had used outdated information.
On New Jersey's election day in 1981, the BSTF posted large signs, without identification but with an official appearance, reading
THIS AREA IS BEING PATROLLED BY THETO VIOLATE ELECTION LAWS
SECURITY TASK FORCE
IT IS A CRIME TO FALSIFY A BALLOT OR
Armed officers in the task force were drawn from the ranks of off-duty county deputy sheriffs and local police, who prominently displayed revolvers, two-way radios, and BSTF armbands. BSTF patrols challenged and questioned voters at the polls. Democrat James J. Florio lost the gubernatorial election to Republican Thomas H. Kean by 1,797 votes.
A civil lawsuit was filed after the election, charging the RNC with illegal harassment and voter intimidation. The suit was settled in 1982, when the state and national Republican parties signed a consent decree in U.S. District Court saying that they would not allow tactics that could intimidate Democratic voters, though they did not admit any wrongdoing.
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