DOJ Announces Expanded In-Person Poll Monitoring

DOJ Announces Expanded In-Person Poll Monitoring

The Department of Justice will be stepping up its in-person election monitoring efforts on Tuesday, compared with 2020’s presidential election. The agency plans to deploy federal monitors from the its Civil Rights Division, Office of Personnel Management, and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to polling places in 64 jurisdictions across 24 different states, according to a Monday press statement.

“Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Division has regularly monitored elections in the field in jurisdictions around the country to protect the rights of voters,” the DOJ said in its announcement. These monitors are a standard part of elections, though their numbers and placement vary from year to year.

During the 2020 national election, the agency placed monitors in 44 jurisdictions and 18 states. So, this year’s midterms mark about a 50% increase in jurisdiction coverage and a 35% increase in the number of states monitored, compared with two years ago, and are also more than the 2018 midterms. However, this year’s monitor numbers aren’t a record by any means. During the 2016 presidential election, 67 jurisdictions and 28 states were monitored.

States slated for monitoring this year, which weren’t in 2020, include Alaska, Arkansas, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, and Utah. Illinois is the only state to have been totally removed from the monitoring list in that time. And many other states have ended up with more jurisdictions on the list now than before, like Arizona which went from three to five.

Unfounded conspiracy theories that allege the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump have proliferated widely for the past two years. Election denier lies were central to the January 6th insurrection attempt. And widely discounted claims of Democrat “voter fraud” have led to a boom in far-right actors stepping in as vigilante ballot watchers.

Last week, an Arizona judge issued a temporary restraining order against such poll-watchers amid one of the most competitive races in the country, where some of the pro-Trump activists were showing up with guns and intimidating would-be voters. In Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, actual election officials received at least 140 threatening messages between July 11 and August 11 alone, according to a report from Reuters.

In addition to the in-person monitors, DOJ Civil Rights Division workers have a phone hotline (800-253-3931) where voters can file complaints. And complaints can also be submitted to the agency’s website. Note though that these portals are only for complaints related to potential violations of the federal voting rights law — not reports about potential fraud.

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