WASHINGTON (UPI) — The Justice Department announced on Monday that it will have more than 500 employees monitoring elections in 28 states on Election Day.
The U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement that the employees of the agency will be dispatched to monitor elections in 67 cities and counties in 28 states around the country, including five counties in Florida (Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Orange, Lee and Hillsborough); five in North Carolina (Cumberland, Forsyth, Mecklenburg, Robeson and Wake) and three each in Pennsylvania (Allegheny, Lehigh and Philadelphia) and Texas (Dallas, Harris and Waller). Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania are hotly contested battleground states, and Florida and North Carolina are viewed as “must-wins” by both candidates.
Justice Department staffers will also be at polling places in six cities in Connecticut on Election Day, including Hartford, the capital, and in the two largest cities in the country: Chicago and New York City, where they’ll monitor polling place in two of the city’s five boroughs: Brooklyn (Kings County) and Queens (Queens County).
Elections are administered by counties and, in some places, by cities, with states providing oversight.
The federal government, however, is charged with enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, through the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“The bedrock of our democracy is the right to vote, and the Department of Justice works tirelessly to uphold that right not only on Election Day, but every day,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said. “We enforce federal statutes related to voting through a range of activities – including filing our own litigation when the facts warrant, submitting statements of interest in private lawsuits to help explain our understanding of these laws, and providing guidance to election officials and the general public about what these laws mean and what they require.”
Besides sending monitors, lawyers in the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section will staff a hotline to handle complaints at 1-800-253-3931. The other ways to file a complaint: fax to 202-307-3961, send email to firstname.lastname@example.orgEmail links icon, or file it through the department’s website at www.justice.gov/crt/votercomplaint.
“As always, our personnel will perform these duties impartially, with one goal in mind: to see to it that every eligible voter can participate in our elections to the full extent that federal law provides,” Lynch said in the statement. “The department is deeply committed to the fair and unbiased application of our voting rights laws and we will work tirelessly to ensure that every eligible person that wants to do so is able to cast a ballot.”
The department will see if voters are subject to different voting qualifications or procedures on the basis of race, color or membership in a language minority group as well as compliance with minority language and disability provisions of the Voting Rights Act. They will also check whether jurisdictions comply with the provisional ballot requirements of the Help America Vote Act.
Allegations of election fraud are handled by the 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.
In the 2012 general election, the Justice Department sent 780 monitors to 23 states.
The agency announced in October it was sending fewer observers after the Supreme Court eliminated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.
In a 5-4 ruling, the court ruled that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional because it was “based on decades-old data and eradicated practices.” A formula had determined which states must have voting laws changes pre-approved by the Justice Department or the D.C. federal court. Nine states are required to get pre-clearance as well as certain jurisdictions in seven other states.
Donald Trump has told his supporters to act as poll watchers, saying the election will be “rigged” after federal court decisions struck down laws in several states requiring people to show state-issued IDs before being allowed to vote. Conversely, Democrats accuse Trump and the GOP of engaging in voter intimidation in several states.
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