WASHINGTON—The Justice Department today announced that on May 16, 2006, the federal government will monitor a special municipal preliminary election in Boston and primary elections in Philadelphia and Reading, Pa., to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.
Under the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department is authorized to ask the Office of Personnel Management to send federal observers to areas that are specially covered in the Act itself or by a federal court order. Federal observers will be assigned to monitor polling place activities in Boston and Reading pursuant to federal court orders entered on Oct. 18, 2005 and Aug. 20, 2003, respectively.
The observers will watch and record activities during voting hours at polling locations in Boston and Reading. Civil Rights Division attorneys will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.
In addition, Justice Department personnel will monitor the primary election in Philadelphia.
Each of the monitored counties has an obligation to provide all election information, ballots and voting assistance information in Spanish pursuant to Section 203 or Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act. In Boston, a settlement agreement approved by the federal court also requires that such information and assistance be provided in Chinese and Vietnamese. The observers and monitors will gather information concerning compliance.
Each year, the Justice Department deploys hundreds of federal observers from the Office of Personnel Management, as well as departmental staff, to monitor elections across the country. In 2004, a record 1,463 federal observers and 533 Department personnel were sent to monitor 163 elections in 105 jurisdictions in 29 states. Last year for off-year elections there were 640 federal observers and 191 Department personnel sent to monitor 47 elections in 36 jurisdictions in 14 states.
To file complaints about discriminatory voting practices, including acts of harassment or intimidation, voters may call the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931.
More information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/index.htm.