‘This Is Important’: DOJ to Step Up Poll Monitoring for Midterms

“It matters that the Justice Department is protecting the rights of voters and enforcing federal voting rights laws,” said the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

By Jessica Corbett  Published 11-7-2022 by Common Dreams

Photo: Keith Ivey/flickr/CC

Amid mounting fears of voter intimidation and political violence on the eve of the U.S. midterm elections, federal officials on Monday announced plans to monitor polls in 64 communities across two dozen states.

“Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Division has regularly monitored elections in the field in jurisdictions around the country to protect the rights of voters,” the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement.

“The Civil Rights Division will also take complaints from the public nationwide regarding possible violations of the federal voting rights laws through its call center,” the DOJ added.

Complaints can be filed on the department’s website, civilrights.justice.gov, or by telephone toll-free at 800-253-3931.

The DOJ is stepping up its monitoring efforts from 2020, when the department focused on only 44 jurisdictions across 18 states, according to CNBC. As the news outlet noted:

Some of the most anticipated races of the election will occur among the states chosen for monitoring. Incumbent GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is up against Democratic Rep. Val Demings for U.S. Senate. Georgia voters will choose between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and former President Donald Trump’s pick, Republican Herschel Walker. And Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) will defend his seat against venture capitalist Republican Blake Masters.

Tuesday will be the first general election since January 6, 2021—when a violent mob provoked by Trump’s “Big Lie” that Democrats stole the 2020 election stormed the U.S. Capitol.

As Common Dreams has reported, while billionaires dump record amounts of money into influencing the midterms—which will determine control of Congress and key state positions—Republicans are working to disqualify thousands of absentee and mail-in ballots in key battleground states and poll workers are already enduring threats.

“I want to be careful to say that I think there’s reason to be concerned that we might see more of this bad behavior in 2022 than in the past, and there’s reason to think that it might look a little different than it has in the past,” Sean Morales-Doyle, director of the Voting Rights Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told NPR. “But by and large, it’s not going to impact the voting experiences of most people and that people should go vote with confidence.”

The center has published a guide about voter intimidation, which includes details on “10 states where the risk of disruption is especially high based on the volume of false allegations and anti-voter activity over the past few years.”

Morales-Doyle highlighted some of what voters and election workers could face Tuesday.

“In some states, there’s a process for voters to challenge other voters’ eligibility, and if someone were doing that, they could do it in an intimidating way,” he said. “There’s also intimidation outside of the polls. And we’ve seen, for instance, in Arizona in recent weeks, people surveilling drop boxes, videotaping. People taking pictures of their license plates.”

“The law against voter intimidation doesn’t specify specific conduct that is illegal. It specifies that intimidating voters is illegal,” Morales-Doyle stressed. “And so really, whatever form it might take, if the result is that a person feels uncomfortable exercising their right to vote, then it violates the law against voter intimidation.”

Mary McCord, executive director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, recently told Axios that threats and attacks are from a “very ground-up, localized effort.”

“We’ve seen a GOP candidate in Idaho have an effigy hung in his yard… We’ve seen a Democratic candidate in eastern Washington be shot with a BB gun while putting up signs,” she noted. “These are very localized efforts. They’re very threatening, and they continue to grow.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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