The Justice Department announced today that it will monitor elections on March 19, 2013, in Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester Counties, S.C., and in the village of Port Chester, N.Y. The monitoring will ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits discrimination in the election process on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group. In addition, the act requires certain covered jurisdictions to provide language assistance during the election process. Port Chester is required to provide assistance in Spanish.
Under the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department is authorized to ask the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to send federal observers to jurisdictions that are certified by the attorney general or by a federal court order. Federal observers will be assigned to monitor polling place activities in Dorchester County based on the attorney general’s certification and in Port Chester based on a court order. The observers will watch and record activities during voting hours at polling locations in these jurisdictions, and Civil Rights Division attorneys will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.
In addition, Justice Department personnel will monitor polling place activities in Beaufort, Berkeley, and Charleston Counties in South Carolina. Civil Rights Division attorneys will coordinate federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.
In January 2008, a federal district court found that Port Chester’s at-large method of electing the village board of trustees violated the Voting Rights Act and prevented Hispanic voters from participating equally in the electoral process, resolving a lawsuit filed by the department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. In November 2009, the court ordered that a cumulative voting system be adopted to remedy this violation, and in December 2009, the department and the village entered into a consent decree, which was approved by the court. The consent decree includes an extensive voter education plan with education and training provisions to ensure that the voters in Port Chester are fully familiar with cumulative voting. The decree also requires that bilingual poll officials will be present at every polling place in Port Chester, and that all election-related materials must be translated into Spanish. The March 2013 election will be the second municipal election since the entry of the consent decree.
Each year, the Justice Department deploys hundreds of federal observers from OPM, as well as departmental staff, to monitor elections across the country. 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.
Visit www.justice.gov/crt/voting/index.php for more information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws.