By Ed Diokno
With announcements from fringe elements that they would “monitor” polling places on Nov. 8 to prevent perceived fraud coupled with the intention of several civil rights groups watching for intimidation or suppression of voters, the possibility of these two widely disparate elements might clash and disrupt voting, the Justice Department announced that its Civil Rights Division plans to deploy more than 500 personnel to 67 jurisdictions in 28 states for the Nov. 8 general election.
AAPI civil rights organizations have been calling for increased monitoring for fear that Asian American and Pacific Islander voters might be intimidated by overzealous Trump monitors.
“Voting rights violations continue to threaten Asian American voters,” said Glenn D. Magpantay, Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund’s Democracy Program Director. “AALDEF has documented these widespread problems in past elections as recently as the Presidential Primary in 2012. The Justice Department must take steps to ensure that Asian Americans can exercise their right to vote.”
Today’s announcement boosts the number of observers and monitors from the DOJ. Earlier this year, Justice Department officials said they were sending observers to fewer than five states — and to those locations only because the oversight has been ordered by judges in specific cases.
Still, the number of DOJ observers and monitors is about a third less than the number of people the department had watching the polls in 2012. The reduction is due to the 2013 ruling by the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act, which the department says authorized the use of DOJ observers in states and other jurisdictions covered by the law. Those areas were under federal oversight because of past discrimination against voters.
The change also means that of the 500 personnel, fewer DOJ personnel will be stationed inside polling places as official poll observers. Instead, more will be monitoring the election from outside, which gives federal authorities less opportunity to spot irregularities and correct them while individuals are voting.
Although state and local governments have primary responsibility for administering elections, the Civil Rights Division is charged with enforcing the federal voting rights laws that protect the rights of all citizens to access the ballot on Election Day.
“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. 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.”
Leading up to and throughout Election Day, Civil Rights Division staff members will be available by telephone to receive complaints related to possible violations of the federal voting rights laws (Toll free at 1-800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767 or TTY 202-305-0082). In addition, individuals may also report such complaints by fax to 202-307-3961, by email to [email protected]
Email links icon and by a complaint form on the department’s website.
Allegations of election fraud are handled by the 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country and the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. Complaints may be directed to any of the local U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the local FBI offices or the Public Integrity Section at 202-514-1412. A list of U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and their telephone numbers can be found at www.justice.gov/usao/find-your-united-states-attorney. A list of FBI offices and accompanying telephone numbers can be found at www.fbi.gov/contact-us.
As always, complaints related to disruption at a polling place should always be reported immediately to local election officials (including officials in the polling place). Complaints related to violence, threats of violence or intimidation at a polling place should be reported immediately to local police authorities by calling 911. They should also be reported to the department after local authorities have been contacted.
On Election Day, the Civil Rights Division will monitor the election on the ground in 67 jurisdictions for compliance with the federal voting rights laws:
Dillingham Census Area, Alaska;
Kusilvak Census Area, Alaska;
Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, Alaska;
Maricopa County, Arizona;
Navajo County, Arizona;
Alameda County, California;
Napa County, California;
Siskiyou County, California;
East Hartford, Connecticut;
New Britain, Connecticut;
West Hartford, Connecticut;
Hillsborough County, Florida;
Lee County, Florida;
Miami-Dade County, Florida;
Orange County, Florida;
Palm Beach County, Florida;
Fulton County, Georgia;
Gwinnett County, Georgia;
Hancock County, Georgia;
Cook County, Illinois;
Finney County, Kansas;
Orleans Parish, Louisiana;
Dearborn Heights, Michigan;
St. Louis, Missouri;
Douglas County, Nebraska;
Mineral County, Nevada;
Washoe County, Nevada;
Middlesex County, New Jersey;
Cibola County, New Mexico;
Kings County, New York;
Orange County, New York;
Queens County, New York;
Cumberland County, North Carolina;
Forsyth County, North Carolina;
Mecklenburg County, North Carolina;
Robeson County, North Carolina;
Wake County, North Carolina;
Benson County, North Dakota;
Rolette County, North Dakota;
Cuyahoga County, Ohio;
Franklin County, Ohio;
Hamilton County, Ohio;
Allegheny County, Pennsylvania;
Lehigh County, Pennsylvania;
Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania;
Pawtucket, Rhode Island;
Providence, Rhode Island;
Bennett County, South Dakota;
Jackson County, South Dakota;
Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota;
Shelby County, Tennessee;
Dallas County, Texas;
Harris County, Texas;
Waller County, Texas;
San Juan County, Utah;
Fairfax County, Virginia;
Prince William County, Virginia, and
- Whether voters are subject to different voting qualifications or procedures on the basis of race, color or membership in a language minority group;
- Whether jurisdictions are complying with the minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act;
- Whether jurisdictions permit voters to receive assistance by a person of his or her choice if the voter is blind, has a disability or is unable to read or write;
- Whether jurisdictions provide polling locations and voting systems allowing voters with disabilities to cast a private and independent ballot; whether jurisdictions comply with the voter registration list requirements of the National Voter Registration Act; and
- Whether jurisdictions comply with the provisional ballot requirements of the Help America Vote Act.
To assist in these inquiries, the DOJ has deployed personnel who speak Spanish and a variety of Asian and Native American languages. Department personnel will also maintain contact with local election officials.
Last month, the Justice Department announced efforts to ensure that all qualified voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots and have their votes counted free of discrimination, intimidation or fraud in the election process.