The US Justice Department will send monitors from its civil rights division to oversee polling sites in 28 states on Tuesday (8 November), it has announced.
Although five more states are being monitored during this year's election than in the 2012 election, there will be a decrease in personnel deployed on Election Day. According to Reuters, more than 500 monitors will be deployed, compared to more than 780 personnel sent to the polls in 2012.
The Justice Department will be limited in its ability to deploy election observers with unrestricted access to the polls due to a 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act, Reuters reported. A spokesman for the department did not say how many of the monitors will be full-access observers.
"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," US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
Among the Justice Department personnel assigned to watch the polls are linguists who are fluent in Spanish and a number of Asian and Native American languages, USA Today reported. "The bedrock of our democracy is the right to vote," Lynch said. "The department is deeply committed to the fair and unbiased application of our voting rights laws."
The department's civil rights division will also have attorneys staffing a hotline to field complaints and assist monitors at the polls. USA Today reported that the monitors from the Justice Department are in addition to the prosecutors in the 94 US attorney offices that are assigned to deal with allegations of voter fraud and voting rights violations.
According to Reuters, courts have only granted the Justice Department permission to deploy full-access observers in five states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Louisiana and New York. However, Alabama is not on the list of 28 states where the department is deploying poll watchers this year.
Justice Department personnel in the other 24 states will be election monitors, who will be forced to rely on local and state authorities to allow them access to polling locations. "In most cases, voters on the ground will see very little practical difference between monitors and observers," Vanita Gupta, head of the department's civil rights division, said in a statement.
Voters can make complaints of possible voting violations on Election Day to the Civil Rights Division by calling 1 800 253 3931; 202 307 2767; or 202 305 0082. Voters can submit complaints by fax to 202 307 2961, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting the department's website: www.justice.gov/crt/votercomplaint.