DOJ Slashes Number of Federal Poll Monitors Amid Heightened Voter Intimidation Fears
The Department of Justice ordered cutbacks on the number of federal observers it deploys at polling places who guard against voter suppression and intimidation.
Many fear fewer poll observers, combined with stricter voting laws, will lead to greater disputes at the polls.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, called on his supporters to monitor polling stations around the country for voter fraud. He’s even launched a website where his supporters can sign up to be a “Trump Election Observer”.
In at least 40 states, however, partisan observers must be accredited or appointed, thus making it highly likely vigilante Trump Election Observers will be turned away.
The suggestion has alarmed civil rights advocates, raising concerns of voter intimidation and racial bias at the polls this November. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe aims to send 500 international observers to monitor the US elections, a 10-fold increase from 2012, reports The Guardian.
Poll monitors are volunteer watch dogs who observe poll workers and voters for any illegal activities. They are allowed to watch voters cast ballots, watch voting equipment testing, and watch ballot counting. They aren’t, however, allowed to interfere with the election process whatsoever. This includes intimidating voters, election officials, or poll workers. If they observe an issues, they are expected to alert the election officials or authorities.
Over the past 50 years, DOJ has sent hundreds of observers and poll monitors across the country to ensure that voters are not intimidated or discriminated against when they cast their ballots. But U.S. officials say that a 2013 Supreme Court decision now limits the federal government’s role inside polling places on Election Day.
“In the past, we have . . . relied heavily on election observers, specially trained individuals who are authorized to enter polling locations and monitor the process to ensure that it lives up to its legal obligations,” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch told a Latino civil rights group over the summer. “Our ability to deploy them has been severely curtailed.”
Posted in General News