The U.S. Justice Department will deploy more than 500 personnel to monitor the electoral process on Election Day to help protect all voters against intimidation and discrimination. The department deployed 780 in the last presidential election but reduced the number as a result of a Supreme Court ruling curtailing the scope of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. However, federal monitors will be covering more locations than during previous presidential contests.
The Department’s Civil Rights Division is deploying those personnel to monitor 67 jurisdictions in 28 states. In 2012, only 51 jurisdictions in 23 states were covered. Both election observers and monitors will be deployed. The first are legally authorized to enter polling sites while the latter are particularly assigned to watch for intimidation or any voting irregularity from the outside, including a party or candidate too close to the voting places or lobbying by supporters, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
A part of the Voting Rights Act that required states to get approval from the Justice Department before changing election laws was eliminated in 2013. This Supreme Court decision enables the Department to send observers inside those polling places where there is a court order to do so. That applies to general elections to specific areas in Alaska, California, New York and Louisiana. For municipal elections, a court order allows observers in one jurisdiction in Alabama.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement that the department aims at ensuring that every voter can take part in the elections “to the full extent that federal law provides,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
“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,” Lynch stated, as quoted by the Chicago Tribune.
Poll watching is a long-accepted practice, but the GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has repeatedly questioned the fairness of the election during his campaign and has warned of voter fraud threats. On the other hand, Democrats have alleged the Trump campaign were conspiring to suppress voters.
A contested case in Ohio led to a judge order that barred the Trump campaign from taking part in any activity involving voter intimidation. The Republican candidate’s lawyers claimed the judge’s order also prohibited political speech and political organizing, but an appeals court nullified the decision on Sunday, and the Supreme Court chose not to intervene.
Third-party groups ready to take part in the monitoring process
Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone is leading Stop the Steal, one of the emerging third-party organizations involved in the monitoring process. The group has been using the argument that Democrats could try “to steal the election” as an attempt to recruit volunteers. According to the organization’s website, it has hired more than 3,000 people to conduct polling at voting sites in key swing states and exit-poll surveys. The group has also said it will count the number of voters at polling places and that all the information could be used to tackle potential voting irregularities.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is another organization that has also geared up to address Election Day issues. The voting-rights group has lined up 4,500 legal volunteers. It runs a call center for voters who have any questions or problems related to the election process and has already received more than 65,000 calls.
Source: The Chicago Tribune