OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The federal government is deploying civil rights monitors to California and 27 other states for the 2016 general election and is urging voters to report any disruption, violence, threats or intimidation at their polling places.
The U.S. Department of Justice is deploying election monitors to 67 jurisdictions in 28 states, up from 51 jurisdictions in 23 states during the 2012 general election.
Federal monitors in California will be in the Bay Area counties of Napa and Alameda as well as further north in Siskiyou County, which runs along the Oregon border.
In all 67 jurisdictions the monitors will watch to see that elections are conducted fairly and in compliance with federal voting rights laws.
Voter intimidation has been a top concern leading up to the election.
The Ohio Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced their decision not to intercede since, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted, voter harassment is already illegal in that state.
The monitors will watch to see that any jurisdictions required to provide language assistance to voters during the election process, provide it and that individuals with disabilities are adequately accommodated.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced the monitors’ locations on Monday and included a message — which wasn’t released prior to recent general elections — that reads:
“As always, complaints related to disruption at a polling place should always 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.”
U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement Monday, “the bedrock of our democracy is the right to vote” and that “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 Voting Rights Act of 1965 was spurred by “the unprovoked attack on March 7, 1965, by state troopers on peaceful marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, en route to the state capitol in Montgomery,” according to the Department of Justice.
Lynch said among the ways the department upholds the Voting Rights Act is — when necessary — by filing litigation, submitting statements of interest in private lawsuits, and providing guidance to election officials and the public about the requirements of the laws.
On Election Day, U.S. Department of Justice lawyers will be staffing a hotline to field complaints from the public and election officials related to potential violations of the federal voting rights laws. The toll free number is 1 (800) 253-3931 or (202) 307-2767 or TTY (202) 305-0082). Complaints can also be sent via email to email@example.com or via fax to (202) 307-3961, as well as through the department’s online complaint form:www.justice.gov/crt/votercomplaint.
The public should report any disruptions to local election officials. Anyone reporting violence or threats of violence should call 911 before contacting federal officials.
By Hannah Albarazi – Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.