Campaign 2016 Trump (copy)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. AP/Evan Vucci/file

The Donald Trump for President campaign says it will have observers at South Carolina polling places acting as watchdogs for the Republican candidate, who claims the system is rigged and fraud may be widespread.

Ed McMullen, Trump's top adviser in South Carolina, said campaign supporters have been educated on things to look for, but he declined to give details, including to name what parts of the state are being targeted.

"I cannot discuss it," he said. "I'd love to, but we're not going to be disclosing to the Democrats what we're doing."

Trump in recent weeks escalated his stump rhetoric by saying the election process could be "stolen" from him in his narrowing battle with Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Based on that claim, he's called on thousands of his supporters to participate in "poll-monitoring" education classes around the country. Voter fraud appears to be one of Trump's top concerns. Much of the concentration is on battleground states.

Trump's call for supporters to focus on who turns out Tuesday has drawn especially loud critics, as some fear the result will lead to incidents of intimidation of minorities at polling sites.

In South Carolina, the practice of "poll observing," or coming out to watch the process, can be legally done by just about anyone on Election Day.

The caveat is that whoever takes part must not interfere with voters in line or during the ballot casting process.

It is different from the more formal "poll-watching," which is a legally recognized practice generally reserved to the political parties — not to any specific candidate.

Poll watchers must carry a letter from the party identifying who they are and what precinct they are there to monitor.

Democrats and Republicans will both do this Tuesday.

A S.C. Democratic Party spokesman said Friday there are concerns about the atmosphere Trump's call to watch for a "rigged" system might create.

"We don't know what to expect," said Matthew Ellison, policy and communications director for the state party. "We've seen the same stories regarding what the Trump campaign and Trump supporters may or may not do on Election Day."

"We're prepared and will have poll watchers out at polling places throughout the state and will ensure all eligible voters can cast ballots and have their votes counted," Ellison added.

The party has taken steps to have a poll-watching network in place Tuesday, he said. S.C. Democrats have also created a voter protection hotline for anyone with concerns: 1-877-346-8683 (1-877-3GOVOTE). 

The S.C. Republican Party phone number to report concerns is 803-988-8440. 

The U.S. Justice Department also has announced it will monitor for complaints of election fraud and voting rights abuses Tuesday. Justice officials note that federal law protects against such crimes as "intimidating or bribing voters, buying and selling votes, impersonating voters, altering vote tallies, stuffing ballot boxes, and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input."

The law further contains special protections "for the rights of voters and provides that they can vote free from acts that intimidate or harass them."

DOJ officials can be reached Tuesday at 803-929-3052 and 803-929-3092.

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Reach Schuyler Kropf on politics at 843-937-5551. Follow on Twitter at @skropf47.

Political Editor

Schuyler Kropf is The Post and Courier political editor. He has covered every major political race in South Carolina dating to 1988, including for U.S. Senate, governorship, the Statehouse and Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.

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