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Fact Sheet: Protecting Voting Rights and Preventing Election Fraud
One of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) highest priorities is to protect voting rights and enforce specific federal laws that help to ensure that all qualified voters have an opportunity to cast their ballots and have them counted. The Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Initiative was established in October 2002 to spearhead the Department’s expanded efforts to address election crimes and voting rights violations. The initiative has two overarching goals: to ensure fair voting access and to protect the integrity of the election process.
As part of the initiative, on July 1-2, DOJ is holding its 7th annual Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Symposium at the Department’s National Advocacy Center in Columbia, South Carolina. The symposium provides for training of Department personnel in preparation for federal elections including the Nov. 4, 2008 general election. With the participation of attorneys from 93 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the symposium strengthens the nationwide span of expertise related to enforcement of voting rights and prosecution of election crimes.
In addition, the symposium provides guidance on federal-state coordination matters to U.S. Attorneys who in the coming months will meet with state officials responsible for handling election matters in their respective districts.
On Nov. 4, 2008, under the programs implemented by the Criminal and Civil Rights Divisions, the Department will be working hard to ensure fair access for the nation’s voters, and to uphold the integrity of the nation’s democratic electoral process. The Justice Department enforces specific federal voting rights laws and has accomplished significant results in the past several years. These efforts include the following:
Civil Rights Division Enforcement:
The Civil Rights Division enforces the civil provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the subsequent amendments; the Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (UOCAVA); the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (Motor Voter or NVRA); and the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). For Election Day, Nov. 4, 2008, the Civil Rights Division will implement a comprehensive program to help ensure ballot access which will include the following:
- The Department will ensure the proper training of the District Election Officials (DEOs), in every U.S. Attorney’s Office across the country on ballot access laws.
- The Civil Rights Division will send hundreds of federal personnel, including Justice Department employees, to posts in a wide scope of states across the nation.
- In identifying locations where federal monitors may be needed, the Civil Rights Division has already sought out the views of many organizations, including advocacy groups for minority voters and voters with disabilities, as well as state and local officials.
- The Civil Rights Division has been engaged in a major outreach effort to minority groups and election officials to inform jurisdictions of their obligations under the language minority provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The Division will continue to enforce the law that requires jurisdictions meeting certain criteria to provide bilingual access to elections.
- On Election Day, voters will be able to file complaints online on the Voting Section home page http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/index.htm. Civil Rights Division personnel will be available at a specially staffed toll free number, 1-800-253-3931, to receive complaints, and on a dedicated TTY line, 1-888-305-3228.
Civil Rights Division Record on Election Matters:
The Civil Rights Division’s commitment to ensuring voter access has resulted in an unprecedented scope of observer and monitor coverage during the past six years. Moreover, a majority of all federal court orders providing for federal observers were obtained or extended by this Administration.
- In recent years, the Civil Rights Division has broken records with regard to enforcement of Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act, which assures all voters who need assistance in marking their ballots the right to choose a person they trust to provide that assistance. During the past six years, we have brought nine of the 11 such claims brought by the Department since Section 208 was enacted 26 years ago.
- The Civil Rights Division’s commitment to enforcing the language minority requirements of the Voting Rights Act, reauthorized by Congress in 2006, remains strong, with nine lawsuits filed in fiscal year 2007. During the past seven years, the Civil Rights Division has brought more cases under the minority language provisions than in all other years combined since 1965.
- The Civil Rights Division continues to work diligently to protect the voting rights of our nation’s military and overseas citizens under UOCAVA. In the last three fiscal years, the Division has taken legal action, or obtained relief without the need for litigation, in six states to ensure military and overseas voters’ rights are protected under UOCAVA. The Division will continue to make every effort to ensure that our citizens abroad and the brave men and women of our military are afforded a full opportunity to participate in federal elections.
- In addition to the Voting Section’s efforts, the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division will be vigilant in its scrutiny of vote suppression or intimidation schemes that may target victims on the basis of race, color, or national origin. Accordingly, the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division will be working closely with the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division to identify possible violations of the statutes that prohibit intentional interference with the right to vote.
Criminal Division Enforcement:
The Criminal Division's Public Integrity Section and the Department's 93 U.S. Attorneys Offices are responsible for enforcing the election fraud laws passed by Congress and signed by the President. On Nov. 4, 2008, they will do so by ensuring the following:
- Federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., and throughout the nation will be readily available on Election Day to receive complaints and take any appropriate action.
- Designated DEOs will be available in each U.S. Attorney’s district to receive and handle any complaints from the public.
- Criminal Division attorneys will be on duty to assist with potential election crimes from the time the polls open on the east coast until the time they close on the west coast to provide consultation and coordination with the DEOs.
Criminal Division Record on Voting Fraud:
The Criminal Division and the Department's 93 U.S. Attorneys Offices enforce laws that prohibit the following: voter intimidation; voting by ineligible individuals; vote buying; destruction of valid ballots or registrations; fraud related to counting more votes then registered voters; altering vote tallies; voting in multiple counties; abuse of absentee ballots; malfeasance by election officials; the disappearance of ballot boxes; furnishing fraudulent voter registration forms to election registrars; and forging the names of voters on absentee ballot materials.
- Since the Attorney General’s Ballot Access and voting Integrity Initiative was launched in 2002, over 140 individuals have been charged with election fraud offenses. Over 100 people have been convicted of voter fraud in that time frame.
- Over 360 election fraud investigations have been started since the initiative began in 2002. There are now approximately 90 investigations ongoing throughout the country.