[Nov.7, 2016]- Washington — The U.S. Justice Department says it’s deploying poll watchers to Detroit, Hamtramck and Dearborn Heights, among other jurisdictions around the country, to monitor for civil rights violations in Tuesday’s election.
The department said Monday it’s sending more than 500 personnel to jurisdictions in 28 states — 35 percent fewer monitors than the department deployed four years ago.
In 2012, the department dispatched roughly 780 monitors and observers nationwide. The department has said its poll-watching presence has been curtailed by a 2013 Supreme Court opinion that invalidated a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, according to The Associated Press.
Federal monitors started monitoring the polls in Hamtramck after election officials in 1999 were accused of violating federal voting rights laws. About 40 voters, including Arab Americans, complained that a citizens’ group tried to prevent them from voting.
Justice Department staffers have also observed polls in Detroit, Pontiac and Macomb County in the past in response to complaints. Typically, monitors are sent to sites where information raised potential questions of compliance with provisions of federal voting rights law.
“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 E. Lynch said in a Monday 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 DOJ has monitored elections around the country since the enactment of the Voting Rights Act. While state and local governments primarily administer elections, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division enforces federal voting rights laws that protect the rights of citizens to access their ballots on Election Day.
Lynch said staff are manning a hotline to receive complaints related to possible violations of federal voting rights laws at (800) 253-3931 or (202) 307-2767. Other contacts for complaints are by fax to (202) 307-3961, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the department’s website at www.justice.gov/crt/votercomplaint.
The department says that complaints related to disruption at a polling place should 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 to police by calling 911 and, after police are contacted, reported to the DOJ.
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