U.S. to dispatch election monitors
From Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau
The Justice Department plans to dispatch about 1,000 election monitors.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Justice Department is expected to announce Thursday where it plans to send about 1,000 federal election monitors charged with protecting the voting rights of citizens in the November 2 balloting.
Officials said most of the monitors will be sent to locations where claims of discrimination have occurred in the past, or where current allegations have prompted federal inquiries or full-fledged investigations.
Under the plan, monitors and observers would report any possible discrimination to a Justice Department command center in Washington and to district elections officials stationed in local U.S. Attorneys' Offices, officials said.
FBI agents will be on standby to respond to any criminal issues, if necessary, they said.
Because elections are run by state governments, the federal government's role is limited to enforcing provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and federal criminal laws against election fraud including ballot tampering and destruction of voter registration cards.
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, which leads the voting rights campaign by civil and human rights groups, has called for monitors in locations in nine states -- Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Arizona and South Dakota.
Justice Department officials said voting rights issues have evolved significantly since the Voting Rights Act was passed nearly 40 years ago.
Concern about official voting discrimination has diminished in African-American areas, but increased in non-English speaking voting precincts.
Elections officials are required to provide materials in languages other than English where concentrations of voters speak second languages.
The Justice Department plans to dispatch more than three times as many observers November 2 as were used in the 2000 general elections.
For the balloting four years ago, the Justice Department sent 317 federal observers to 18 counties in nine states.
In 2000, monitors were sent to parts of Alameda County, California, and New York City to monitor the treatment of Chinese-American voters. Monitors were sent to Hamtramck, Michigan, to monitor the treatment of Arab-American voters.
Observers were also dispatched to Passaic County, New Jersey, to monitor the treatment of Hispanic voters.
Monitors were sent to Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Mississippi to protect the rights of Native American voters.
Only in Hale and Lowndes counties in Alabama and Grenada County, Mississippi, were federal monitors specifically dispatched from Washington to monitor the treatment of African-American voters in 2000.