WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice announced today that its Civil Rights Division plans to deploy more than 800 federal observers and Department personnel to 59 jurisdictions in 23 states for the Nov. 4, 2008, general election.
Although state and local governments have primary responsibility for administering elections, the Department is charged with and committed to protecting the rights of all citizens to access the ballot on Election Day, and to preventing and prosecuting voter fraud.
In the days leading up to and throughout Election Day, Civil Rights Division staff members will be available at a special toll-free number to receive complaints related to free and fair ballot access (1-800-253-3931) (TTY line 1-888-305-3228), including allegations of voter intimidation or coercion targeted at voters because of their race, color, national origin or religion. In addition, individuals may also report complaints, problems or concerns related to voting via the Internet. Forms may be submitted through a link on the Department’s Web page: http://www.usdoj.gov/.
Allegations of voter 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.
In anticipation of a record turnout at the polls during this election cycle, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey reiterated the Department’s commitment to using all available tools to ensure a free and fair election.
"The Department of Justice will do all it can to help ensure that elections run as smoothly as possible – and, equally important, that the American people have confidence in our electoral process," Attorney General Mukasey said. "On November 4, hundreds of Department of Justice lawyers, monitors and observers will be working throughout the country to help make sure that all Americans who are entitled to vote are able to do so, and that the elections accurately represent the will of the people."
Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Department has regularly sent observers and monitors around the country to protect voters’ rights. Under the Voting Rights Act, which protects the rights of Americans to participate in the electoral process without discrimination, the Department is authorized to ask the Office of Personnel Management to send federal observers to areas that have been certified for coverage by a federal court or the Attorney General. The Department also may send monitors from its own staff to elections in other jurisdictions.
Thus far during calendar year 2008 (and not including those individuals involved in the November 4, 2008, monitoring effort), 415 federal observers and 167 Department personnel have been sent to monitor 55 elections in 50 jurisdictions in 18 states.
On Election Day, federal observers will monitor polling place activities in 30 jurisdictions:
Justice Department personnel will monitor the election in an additional 29 jurisdictions. The jurisdictions are as follows:
The observers and Department personnel will gather information on 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 who are blind, disabled, or unable to read or write assistance by a person of their choice; whether jurisdictions allow voters who are blind to cast a private and independent ballot; and whether jurisdictions comply with the provisional ballot requirements of the Help America Vote Act. To assist in these inquiries, the Department has deployed observers and monitors who speak Spanish, and a variety of Asian and Native American languages. Both the federal observers and Department personnel will coordinate monitoring activities and maintain contact with local election officials.
More information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting and election-related laws is available on the Civil Rights Division’s Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting. More information about the Department’s Public Integrity Section is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/pin/ .