Justice Department Preparing for Election Problems

On Election Day, the Justice Department plans to dispatch about 800 election observers and monitors to look for voting problems and fraud.

Wan Kim, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, said Tuesday, "We have dispatched a record number, unprecedented numbers of federal observers and monitors to the polls over the past six years, and that commitment will continue on Tuesday."

About 550 observers -- career government officials picked and trained from the Office of Personal Management -- will be dispatched to 20 states and to precincts that make those counties eligible under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The remaining 250 monitors are department personnel who will go where the Justice Department suspects there may be some voter problems.

A full list of locations where the observers and monitors will be sent will be released by the department on Monday.

Kim said that some of the jurisdictions would be in areas where there were particularly close races.

"It is a factor how closely contested the race may be," Kim said.

Observers and monitors will be looking to make sure voter access is provided, for example, under federal law every polling location is required to have at least one voting machine that is handicap accessible.

Officials from the voting section of the civil rights division have been in contact with minority groups and disabled rights groups to watch for any violations of intimidation or access issues.

"That's a great source of information for us because, you know, we're obviously not everywhere," Kim said.

Justice Department officials have also consulted with officials from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

The observers and monitors will be determining whether any voters are challenged improperly on the basis of their race, color or language, and will be ensuring that voters who are blind, disabled, or unable to read or write can bring assistance of their choice to the polls.

Under federal election law, a person can bring someone to assist them in making their vote with the exception of their employer or union official.

Kim said that recent concern over electronic voting machines should not deter voters because many groups including the National Association of Secretaries of State and national testing laboratories had reviewed the machines.

"Regardless of what machine a voter votes on Election Day -- and there will be dozens and dozens of different type of machines across the country that are being used -- they have confidence that once the results of those elections are certified, you can bet on those results as being correct, because of the safeguards in place," Kim said.

Besides the deployed observers and monitors, designated election officers, who are lawyers fully trained in federal election law, will be at each of the 93 U.S. attorney offices around the nation.

They will be responsive to any calls or questions from observers and the monitors.

In addition to this, public integrity lawyers and FBI agents in field offices will be on call to address any voter-fraud issues and allegations that may arise on Election Day.

Currently voters can file complaints online on the Voting Section home page at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/index.htm.

Civil rights division personnel will also establish a voter hotline for complaints.

The toll-free number is 1-800-253-3931; the TTY line is 1-888-305-3228.

Both numbers are operational today.

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