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Election-rights groups raise specter of voter intimidation

Racial justice groups are already sounding the alarm about their fears that outside groups could hamper minority voters' ability to cast their ballot in the next three weeks.

On a conference call with left-leaning voting watchdog groups, New Florida Majority executive director Gihan Perera told reporters that he's worried about "vigilantes" who could try to intimidate voters on their way in to early voting sites and Election Day polling places, particularly in precincts dominated by African-American and Latino voters.

"We are really concerned about what happens outside the polls," Perera said. "And we're concerned about what candidates' poll observers do inside the polls."

Perera and other activists, including Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project, which organized the call, say that given the heated rhetoric of the presidential debate, they're even more concerned than usual. But they aren't worried that the election could be "rigged," as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly said in recent weeks.

"If there's a problem, it's not fraud," Dianis said. "Laws that make it harder to vote for African-Americans and Latinos and others are the real attacks that undermine the integrity of our election system."

Through the election, Perera said his organization will be at polling places observing the voting process. As well, they are currently reviewing data to determine whether the state has disproportionately rejected new voter registration applications from any particular racial groups.

"We're starting to monitor the absentee ballots that come in," Perera said. "We are trying to figure out of the particular African-American and Latino ballots, how many are still out there and really encouraging people to be able to turn those in."

Mail ballots have already been sent by county supervisors of elections, but voters can still request them. Early voting begins between Monday and Saturday of next week, depending on the county. Election Day is Nov. 8.

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