- Views & Opinions
The Justice Department announced that its Civil Rights Division will deploy more than 500 personnel to 67 jurisdictions, including Milwaukee, on Election Day.
Although state and local governments have primary responsibility for administering elections, Justice’s Civil Rights Division is charged with enforcing the federal voting rights laws that protect the rights of all citizens to access the ballot on Election Day.
Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the department has regularly monitored elections in the field in jurisdictions around the country to protect the rights of voters.
“The bedrock of our democracy is the right to vote, and the Department of Justice works tirelessly to uphold that right not only on Election Day, but every day,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in a statement. “We enforce federal statutes related to voting through a range of activities — including filing our own litigation when the facts warrant, submitting statements of interest in private lawsuits to help explain our understanding of these laws, and providing guidance to election officials and the general public about what these laws mean and what they require.
“On Election Day itself, lawyers in the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section will staff a hotline starting in the early hours of the morning, and just as we have sent election monitors in prior elections, we will continue to have a robust election monitors program in place on election day. 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. The department is deeply committed to the fair and unbiased application of our voting rights laws and we will work tirelessly to ensure that every eligible person that wants to do so is able to cast a ballot.”
Leading up to and throughout Election Day, Civil Rights Division staff members will be available by telephone to receive complaints related to possible violations of the federal voting rights laws (Toll free at 1-800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767 or TTY 202-305-0082).
In addition, individuals may also report such complaints by fax to 202-307-3961, by email to and by a complaint form on the department’s website: www.justice.gov/crt/votercomplaint.
Allegations of election fraud are handled by the 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country and the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.
Complaints may be directed to any of the local U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the local FBI offices or the Public Integrity Section at 202-514-1412.
Complaints related to disruption at a polling place should be reported immediately to local election officials (including officials in the polling place).
Complaints related to violence, threats of violence or intimidation at a polling place should be reported immediately to local police authorities by calling 911.
They should also be reported to the department after local authorities have been contacted.
On Election Day, the Civil Rights Division will monitor the election on the ground in 67 jurisdictions for compliance with the federal voting rights laws:
The department will gather information on:
• whether voters are subject to different voting qualifications or procedures on the basis of race, color or membership in a language minority group;
• whether jurisdictions are complying with the minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act; whether jurisdictions permit voters to receive assistance by a person of his or her choice if the voter is blind, has a disability or is unable to read or write;
• whether jurisdictions provide polling locations and voting systems allowing voters with disabilities to cast a private and independent ballot;
• whether jurisdictions comply with the voter registration list requirements of the National Voter Registration Act;
• whether jurisdictions comply with the provisional ballot requirements of the Help America Vote Act.
Last month, the Justice Department announced efforts to ensure that all qualified voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots and have their votes counted free of discrimination, intimidation or fraud in the election process.
Earlier this fall, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore, Mark Pocan and Ron Kind sent a letter to the Justice Department asking for monitoring of the election in Wisconsin.
Moore and Pocan issued statement on Nov. 7:
“I take great comfort in knowing that personnel from the U.S. Justice Department will be on the ground in Milwaukee during this historic election,” said Moore. “Too many Wisconsinites, especially those in communities of color, face a host of unnecessary obstacles in their efforts exercise their constitutional right to vote. This is simply unacceptable. My colleagues and I in Wisconsin’s Democratic congressional delegation would like to thank the DOJ for ensuring that all voters, regardless of party affiliation or political ideology, have the right to take part in our democracy, free of discrimination or intimidation.”
Pocan said, “The decision by the Department of Justice, while welcome, is a bittersweet victory for those of us who want to ensure voting rights are upheld. Although the DOJ’s efforts to enforce federal voting-rights laws is essential to fending off the worst aspects of this relentless attack on the right to vote, my colleagues and I will fight to end the suppression and intimidation that have become normalized in this election. The bedrock of democracy is the robust participation of all of us in the political process—this has always been a core Wisconsin value. We cannot and will not tolerate the continued threat of disenfranchisement against hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites.”