The Department of Justice will deploy hundreds of personnel from its civil rights division to 28 states on election day to ensure that no one — particularly minority voters — are discriminated against or intimated while voting, the department announce Monday.
“The bedrock of our democracy is the right to vote," US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
She added that the DOJ has regularly monitored elections since 1965 when the Voting Rights Act, which aims to prevent racial discrimination in voting, was passed. They have added five more states and 16 more districts since the 2012 election.
"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," she continued. "We will work tirelessly to ensure that every eligible person that wants to do so is able to cast a ballot.”
The monitors will not be looking for election fraud but will focus on whether "voters are subject to different voting qualifications or procedures on the basis of race, color or membership in a language minority group," as well as whether the laws put in place to help voters with disabilities are being abided by. To this purpose, many of the monitors are fluent in Spanish and a "variety of Asian and Native American languages" the department said.
Head of the Civil Rights Division Vanita Gupta said in a quote sent to BuzzFeed News that voters in monitored jurisdictions will generally not notice a difference from the 2012 election.
This announcement comes after repeated claims by GOP nominee Donald Trump that the election will be "rigged" against him, as well as suggestions by Trump and his campaign that Trump supporters "monitor" the polling stations to make sure there is no foul play, particularly in "certain areas" of Philadelphia and Chicago with high minority populations, both of which are on the DOJ monitoring list.
Some of Trump's supporters interpreted his statements to mean they should engage in "racial profiling" and intimidation.
“Trump said to watch your precincts. I’m going to go, for sure,” a 61-year-old Ohio voter named Steve Webb told the Boston Globe in October. “I’ll look for … well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American.”
“I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable,” he continued. “I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”
This will be the first presidential election since major parts of the Voting Rights Act were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, enabling many Southern states to implement restrictions that will make it more difficult for many residents to vote.
At the time the changes were made, Chief Justice John Roberts argued that the country had "changed."
“While any racial discrimination in voting is too much," he wrote in the decision, "Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.” At the time President Obama said he was "deeply disappointed" in the decision.
In the past, the DOJ deployed more "observers," who are allowed to enter the polling stations and directly monitor voting activity. But due to the 2013 decision, observers are restricted, so for this election the DOJ employed more "monitors," who are not allowed to enter polling stations uninvited, but who are there to aide local election officials.
Beginning Monday, the DOJ opened up a hotline for people to report violations of voting rights and voter intimidation and discrimination, in addition, they also encouraged anyone experiencing it to immediately alert law enforcement.
The numbers to call are 1-800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767. Also, complaints by email can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org or by a form on the department’s website.
Here are all the districts DOJ monitors will be present at on Tuesday:
Bethel Census Area, Alaska;
Dillingham Census Area, Alaska;
Kusilvak Census Area, Alaska;
Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, Alaska;
Maricopa County, Arizona;
Navajo County, Arizona;
Alameda County, California;
Napa County, California;
Siskiyou County, California;
East Hartford, Connecticut;
New Britain, Connecticut;
West Hartford, Connecticut;
Hillsborough County, Florida;
Lee County, Florida;
Miami-Dade County, Florida;
Orange County, Florida;
Palm Beach County, Florida;
Fulton County, Georgia;
Gwinnett County, Georgia;
Hancock County, Georgia;
Cook County, Illinois;
Finney County, Kansas;
Orleans Parish, Louisiana;
Dearborn Heights, Michigan;
St. Louis, Missouri;
Douglas County, Nebraska;
Mineral County, Nevada;
Washoe County, Nevada;
Middlesex County, New Jersey;
Cibola County, New Mexico;
Kings County, New York;
Orange County, New York;
Queens County, New York;
Cumberland County, North Carolina;
Forsyth County, North Carolina;
Mecklenburg County, North Carolina;
Robeson County, North Carolina;
Wake County, North Carolina;
Benson County, North Dakota;
Rolette County, North Dakota;
Cuyahoga County, Ohio;
Franklin County, Ohio;
Hamilton County, Ohio;
Allegheny County, Pennsylvania;
Lehigh County, Pennsylvania;
Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania;
Pawtucket, Rhode Island;
Providence, Rhode Island;
Bennett County, South Dakota;
Jackson County, South Dakota;
Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota;
Shelby County, Tennessee;
Dallas County, Texas;
Harris County, Texas;
Waller County, Texas;
San Juan County, Utah;
Fairfax County, Virginia;
Prince William County, Virginia, and