Justice Department To Monitor Polls In Harris County, Sheriff Joe’s Turf

Harris County, Texas and Maricopa County, Arizona are among the 30 jurisdictions in which federal observers will monitor polling place activities or Justice Department personnel will monitor the election, DOJ announced late Friday.

The Tea Party-backed group True the Vote, the Texas Democratic Party, Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee and even the New Black Panther Party have traded accusations of voter intimidation in Harris County and called for federal elections monitors to be deployed to the area.Maricopa County is the territory of controversial anti-illegal immigration Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He sent out an e-mail asking supporters to “help [him] STOP ILLEGALS FROM STEALING THIS ELECTION!” and has also been under investigation for allegations of discrimination in his enforcement of immigration law and treatment of prisoners.

The Civil Rights Division of DOJ will deploy over 400 federal observers and department personnel to those 30 jurisdictions in 18 states for Tuesday’s election.

Cook County, Ill. — where GOP Senate Candidate Mark Kirk was secretly recorded saying he would deploy “voter integrity” squads in two predominately African-American parts of Chicago — is not on the list, but federal observers will monitor polling places in nearby Kane County.

Federal observers will “monitor polling place activities in 16 jurisdictions: Autauga County, Ala.; Bethel, Alaska; Apache and Navajo Counties, Ariz.; Riverside County, Calif.; Randolph County, Ga.; Kane County, Ill.; Salem County (Penns Grove), NJ; Cibola and Sandoval Counties, NM; Cuyahoga County, Ohio; Shannon County; SD; and Dallas, Fort Bend, Galveston and Williamson Counties, Texas,” the Department said.

Justice Department personnel will “monitor the election in an additional 14 jurisdictions: Maricopa County, Ariz.; Alameda County, Calif.; Seminole County, Fla.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Neshoba County, Miss.; Colfax County, Neb.; Passaic County, NJ; Orange County, NY; Lorain County, Ohio; Philadelphia, Pa.; Bennett and Todd Counties, SD; Shelby County, Tenn.; and Harris County, Texas,” the Department said.

Said DOJ:

The observers and department personnel 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 allow voters with disabilities to cast a private and independent ballot; and whether jurisdictions comply with the provisional ballot requirements of the Help America Vote Act.

To assist in these inquiries, the department has deployed observers and monitors who speak Spanish and a variety of Asian and Native American languages. Both the federal observers and department personnel will coordinate monitoring activities, and department attorneys maintain contact with local election officials.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, head of the Civil Rights Division, said this week that the Justice Department will have “adequate and aggressive enforcement” of both voter fraud laws and of voter intimidation laws. The Obama administration kept the name of the Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Initiative, which began during the Bush administration but had come under fire because critics said they focused on anti-voter fraud laws but were not responsive to intimidation, harassment or discrimination claims.