As voters head to the polls Tuesday in Palm Beach County, there will be an extra set of eyes to make sure federal laws are being followed.
The Department of Justice announced Monday it will send teams to Palm Beach County. The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division will be in 35 jurisdictions in 19 states.
Palm Beach, Pinellas and DeSoto were selected in Florida, but the DOJ is not saying exactly why.
A DOJ official released the following statement:
“The Civil Rights Division is responsible for enforcement of the civil provisions of federal statutes that protect the right to vote, including the Voting Rights Act, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the Help America Vote Act, and the Civil Rights Acts. The Division monitors elections to help determine compliance with these voting rights statutes. Even though the Division does not publicly announce monitoring except in connection with federal general elections, the Division is out in the field for all kinds of elections all over the country and all throughout each year, not just federal general elections. In determining where to monitor, the Division considers a number of factors, including information provided by state/local election officials and communities, and information gathered as part of the Division's ongoing compliance reviews. The Division is also continuing its outreach to jurisdictions that are required to provide bilingual election materials and assistance at the polls, pursuant to the Voting Rights Act."
“I think that’s great, we want to make sure that all citizens are able to vote,” said Florida Sen. Lori Berman, D-31. "I welcome the justice department if they're looking at the same thing for voter protections that we as the parties are looking at.
“It’s always a good thing, and we’re glad to have the DOJ come down. We welcome them to watch our elections,” said Michael Barnett, the Republican Party Chairman for Palm Beach County. "There have been problems in the past and we want to ensure a fair election here in Palm Beach County for every voter.”
On Monday, the DOJ said the Civil Rights Division will gather information on, among other things, 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 language minority provisions of the Voting Rights Act; whether jurisdictions permit a voter to receive assistance by a person of his or her choice if the voter has a disability or is unable to read or write; whether jurisdictions provide polling locations and voting systems allowing voters with disabilities to cast a private and independent ballot; whether jurisdictions comply with the voter registration list requirements of the National Voter Registration Act; and whether jurisdictions comply with the provisional ballot requirements of the Help America Vote Act. Division personnel will also maintain contact with local election officials.
"We don't want any illegal voting taking place..we want a fair election...when we have a fair election we have victories for Republicans," Barnett said.
"We need to tell all voters that the DOJ the civil right division is looking out for everybody's rights and that's what's important," Berman said.
Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said it is not unusual for the DOJ to come, and they have been here before.
On Tuesday, the Division staff members will be available all day by telephone to receive complaints from the public related to possible violations of the federal voting rights laws (1-800-253-3931 toll-free or 202-307-2767 or TTY 202-305-0082).