The Department of Justice will provide staff in 44 jurisdictions in 18 states throughout the United States “to monitor for compliance with the federal voting rights laws” on Election Day, the agency announced in a Nov. 2 news release.
“Federal law entrusts the Civil Rights Division with protecting the right to vote for all Americans,” said Eric S. Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, in the statement. “Our federal laws protect the right of all American citizens to vote without suffering discrimination, intimidation, and harassment. The work of the Civil Rights Division around each federal general election is a continuation of its historical mission to ensure that all of our citizens can freely exercise this most fundamental American right.”
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights division has enforced voting rights laws since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
Agency staff will be sent to counties and cities in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. A full list of jurisdictions can be found in the news release.
The move isn’t uncommon, as the Justice Department typically monitors some areas on Election Day. In 2016, the agency sent more than 500 employees to 67 jurisdictions in 28 states. In 2012, the Justice Department sent 780 observers and personnel to 51 jurisdictions in 23 states.
Justice Department monitors will try to determine if polling places “focus on compliance with the Voting Rights Act” or other federal laws, according to the news release. Civil rights personnel from U.S. Attorney’s Offices will also be sent, and they will maintain contact with local and state elections officials.
“Complaints related to disruption at a polling place should always be reported immediately to local election officials (including officials in the polling place),” the news release stated. “Complaints related to violence, threats of violence or intimidation at a polling place should be reported immediately to local police authorities by calling 911. These complaints should also be reported to the department after local authorities have been contacted.”
Democratic election attorney Kevin Greenberg told Pennsylvania’s WHYY that it’s “routine” for the agency to “send teams to communities covered by the language access provisions of the Voting Rights Act and where they have received complaints,” adding that voters “should expect, and require, that any DOJ presence to be a routine presence of career officials.”
Complaints from the public about potential violations of the federal voting rights laws can be lodged at the department’s website or via telephone at 800-253-3931.