Justice, OPM send observers to polling places

The Justice Department has sent more that 500 federal observers and more than 350 other employees to 69 jurisdictions in 22 states to monitor today’s midterm elections. The record-breaking effort partially reflects voters’ concerns about the balloting process, namely the accuracy and functioning of electronic voting machines.

The number of federal workers dispersed for the election is more than double the total sent on Election Day 2002, the previous record for observers at a midterm election, according to a Nov. 6 Justice statement.

Since passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Justice has regularly sent observers and monitors around the country to protect election-related civil rights, the statement reads. This summer, President Bush signed the reauthorized Voting Rights Act, which protects Americans’ rights to participate in the electoral process without discrimination.

Under the law, Justice 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.

Included among the 69 jurisdictions in 22 states where OPM observers and/or Justice employees are monitoring polling places today are: Chambers, Lee and Tuscaloosa counties in Alabama; Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Osceola and Palm Beach countries in Florida; Chicago and Cook County, Ill.; Boston and Springfield, Mass.; Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex and Salem counties in New Jersey; Kings, Queens, Richmond and Westchester counties in New York; and Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

News reports today state that the FBI is looking into possible voter intimidation in the Virginia Senate race between Republican Sen. George Allen and Democrat Jim Webb.

State election officials alerted Justice Nov. 6 to several complaints of suspicious phone calls to voters that attempted to misdirect or confuse them about Election Day. They said the FBI is investigating.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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