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U.S. Justice Department to send staff to monitor polling places in Wake and Mecklenburg

Voters cast their ballots at a polling station in Atlanta, Georgia in 2018 (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Civil rights group decries “thinly veiled” and “politicized” action

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Justice will have staffers on the ground in 44 counties (including two in North Carolina) and cities across 18 states on Election Day, monitoring for violations of federal voting-rights laws—fewer states than in 2016.

The localities this year are in battlegrounds like Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The deployment of personnel from the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s offices are part of the agency’s regular monitoring efforts since passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, DOJ officials said in a news release Monday.

“Our federal laws protect the right of all American citizens to vote without suffering discrimination, intimidation, and harassment,” said Eric S. Dreiband, assistant Attorney General for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “The work of the Civil Rights Division around each federal general election is a continuation of its historical mission to ensure that all of our citizens can freely exercise this most fundamental American right.”

The agency did not specify how many DOJ staffers would be part of this year’s monitoring efforts, or why the specific locations were selected. Some are repeated monitoring spots from the 2016 presidential election, when the DOJ sent more than 500 personnel to 67 jurisdictions in 28 states.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law criticized the DOJ monitoring plan on Monday, saying it overlooks parts of the country where Black voters and voters of color have historically faced voter suppression.

“This plan appears to be nothing but a thinly-veiled effort to deploy federal government personnel to communities in so-called ‘battleground states,’” said Kristen Clarke, the organization’s president and executive director.

“The most striking evidence of the politicized nature of this plan is the absence of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and other states that are home to some of the largest shares of Black voters,” Clake continud.

On Tuesday, DOJ staffers will be available to receive complaints about potential voting-rights violations. Individuals who witness a potential violation can fill out an online form at https://civilrights.justice.gov/ or call 800-253-3931.

The announcement comes amid heightened concerns about violence or disruptions at polling places. Complaints related to violence, voter intimidation or other disruptions at polling places should be reported first to local police and election officials, and then to the DOJ, according to the news release.

The jurisdictions where DOJ personnel will be on hand are:

  • North Carolina: Mecklenburg and Wake counties
  • Arizona: Coconino, Maricopa and Navajo counties
  • California: Los Angeles and Orange counties
  • Florida: Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach counties
  • Georgia: Fulton and Gwinnett counties
  • Illinois: City of Chicago and Cook County
  • Maryland: Montgomery County
  • Massachusetts: Cities of Boston, Lowell, Malden, Quincy and Springfield
  • Michigan: Cities of Detroit, Eastpointe, Flint, Hamtramck, Highland Park and Jackson; and Shelby Township
  • Minnesota: City of Minneapolis
  • New Jersey: Bergen and Middlesex counties
  • New Mexico: Bernalillo County
  • Ohio: Cuyahoga County
  • Pennsylvania: Allegheny, Lehigh and Philadelphia counties
  • South Carolina: Richland County
  • Texas: Harris and Waller counties
  • Virginia: Fairfax and Prince William counties
  • Wisconsin: City of Milwaukee
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U.S. Justice Department to send staff to monitor polling places in Wake and Mecklenburg