Justice Dept. dispatches 500 staffers to enforce voting rights

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is dispatching more than 500 staffers to monitor voting in 28 states Tuesday, as the country prepares for one of the most contentious elections in its history.

While federal authorities will be deployed from Bethel, Alaska, to Napa County, Calif., the number represents a substantial decline from 2012 when nearly 800 were assigned to determine whether voters are subject to racial discrimination, improper barriers related to language differences or disabilities. Among the group are linguists who are fluent in Spanish and a variety of Asian and Native American languages.

The change was forced by limitations outlined in a 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down portions of the Voting Rights Act.

“The bedrock of our democracy is the right to vote,’’ Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Monday. “The department is deeply committed to the fair and unbiased application of our voting rights laws.’’

Attorneys assigned to the department's Civil Rights Division also will staff a hotline, which is expected to open early Tuesday to field complaints and assist monitors in the field.

“As always, our personnel will perform these duties impartially, with one goal in mind: to see to it that every eligible voter can participate in our elections to the full extent that federal law provides,’’ Lynch said.

The staffing provisions are additions to previously announced preparations in each of the nation's 94 U.S. attorney's offices where prosecutors have been assigned to handle allegations of voter fraud and voting rights violations.

The FBI also has established a command center at its headquarters in Washington to help coordinate the enforcement effort.

The preparations come against a backdrop of a deeply hostile general election season in which Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump already has suggested, without offering specific evidence, that voting irregularities could cost him the election.

Some of his supporters also have indicated that they would only accept the outcome of the election if Trump wins.

On Election Day, complaints of possible voting violations can be reported to the Civil Rights Division by calling: 1-800-253-3931; 202-307-2767 or 202-305-0082. Reports also can be made by fax to  202-307-3961, by email to voting.section@usdoj.gov and on the department’s website: www.justice.gov/crt/votercomplaint.


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