United States Attorney Reaffirms Role of Justice Department on Election Day
James L. Santelle, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, reaffirmed today the role that his office and the United States Department of Justice generally will pursue in connection with the nationwide election on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. As he described previously, the Office of the United States Attorney and the Justice Department are, along with other units of state and local government, responsible for deterring election fraud and discrimination and addressing those types of violations whenever and wherever they occur.
Santelle specifically reaffirmed that “the Department’s long-established and continuing Election Day Program is designed to promote public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process. We meet that mission by, among other actions, identifying points of contact for members of the community to report possible incidents of election fraud and violations of basic voting rights while the polls are open.”
Federal law protects against crimes like intimidating and bribing voters, buying and selling votes, altering vote tallies, “stuffing” ballot boxes, and marking ballots for voters contrary to their wishes or without their direction. “The law also provides special protections for the rights of voters,” Santelle added, “including mechanisms to ensure that all voters are free from intimidation, harassment, and discrimination.”
For instance, actions designed to interrupt or intimidate voters at polling places by questioning or challenging them—or by photographing or videotaping them—under the pretext that these actions are meant to uncover illegal voting may violate federal law. In addition, the law protects the right of every voter to mark his or her own ballot or to be assisted in that process by a person of his or her choice.
In explanation of the means by which the law will be enforced, Santelle commented that, “since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the Justice Department has regularly sent observers and monitors to polling sites around the country to protect the rights of voters. On Election Day 2012, Justice Department staff will be in Milwaukee, along with 33 other jurisdictions nationwide, to monitor election processes.”
Those staff members will gather information on, among other matters, 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 they permit each voter to receive assistance by a person of his or her selection if the voter is blind, disabled, or unable to read or write; whether jurisdictions allow voters with disabilities to cast private and independent ballots; and whether they comply with the voter registration list requirements of the National Voter Registration Act and with the provisional ballot requirements of the Help America Act.
Santelle noted that, “to assist in these inquiries, the Justice Department has deployed to various locations throughout the country observers and monitors who speak Spanish and a variety of Asian and Native American languages. Our attorneys—in Washington, D.C. and here locally—will also maintain contact and be in communication with local election officials, as circumstances warrant.”
As he announced previously, Santelle has designated Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Richard G. Frohling as the Eastern District Election Officer, responsible for election-related matters arising in Milwaukee and all other areas throughout the approximately eastern third of the State of Wisconsin; AUSA Frohling and Santelle will be on duty throughout Election Day and may be contacted at (414) 297-4528. In addition, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has identified Special Agents to receive allegations of election fraud, discrimination, and other abuses; they may be contacted at (414) 276-4684.
Complaints about ballot access problems or discrimination may also be communicated to the Voting Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice at (toll free) (1-800) 253-3931 or (202) 307-2767. In addition, individuals may report on those types of incidents by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the use of an official complaint form on the website of the Justice Department at www.justice.gov/crt/about/vot/.
Finally, Santelle noted that his colleague in the Western District of Wisconsin, United States Attorney John W. Vaudreuil, has likewise appointed a special Election Day Program Officer—namely, Assistant United States Attorney Peter Jarosz—to respond to complaints in Madison and approximately the western two-thirds of the State of Wisconsin. AUSA Jarosz may be reached at (608) 658-3743.
Santelle reaffirmed that the franchise “is the cornerstone of our American system of government, and we must all promote the free and unfettered right of our citizens to exercise their voting rights absent discrimination, fraud, intimidation, or any other compromises in access to the polls.”
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