- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2012

The Justice Department said Friday it will deploy more than 780 federal observers and department personnel to 51 jurisdictions in 23 states for the Nov. 6 general election to enforce federal voting rights laws that guarantee all citizens access to the ballot box.

While state and local governments have primary responsibility for administering elections, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is charged with enforcing federal voting laws.

Federal observers will monitor polling place activities in Russell County, Ala.; Maricopa County, Ariz.; Alameda County and Riverside County in California; Randolph County, Ga.; East Carroll Parish, La.; Panola County, Miss.; Colfax County, Neb.; Sandoval County, N.M.; Orange County, N.Y.; Cuyahoga County and Lorain County in Ohio; Williamsburg County, S.C.; Shannon County ; S.D.; and Dallas County, Fort Bend County and Jefferson County in Texas.

Justice Department officials also will monitor the election in an additional 34 jurisdictions in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, North Carolina, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Allegations of election fraud are handled by the 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices across the country and the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Justice Department has sent observers and monitors around the country to protect the rights of voters. The Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the election process on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group. Under the act, 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 can send its own staff to monitor elections in other jurisdictions.

Department officials said the observers will gather information on, among other things, 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 to receive assistance by a person of his or her choice if the voter is blind, has a disability, or is unable to read or write; whether jurisdictions allow voters with disabilities to cast a private and independent ballot; whether jurisdictions comply with the voter registration list requirements of the National Voter Registration Act; and whether jurisdictions comply with the provisional ballot requirements of the Help America Vote Act.

To assist in these inquiries, the department said it 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 department attorneys maintain contact with local election officials.

• Jerry Seper can be reached at jseper@washingtontimes.com.

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