- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

The Justice Department yesterday deployed an unprecedented number of federal monitors for the 2006 midterm elections, sending more than 850 federal observers and department personnel to 69 jurisdictions in 22 states.

It was more than double the number dispatched in 2002.

Assistant Attorney General Wan Kim, who heads the department’s Civil Rights Division, said the “anticipated closeness of the races” was a factor in where to send the monitors.

Nine teams of monitors were sent to Texas, followed by eight each in California and South Dakota, five each to Arizona, Florida and New Jersey, four to New York, three each to Alabama, Colorado and Louisiana, and two each to Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Washington state. One each went to Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Justice Department officials said the observers and monitors watched and recorded activities during voting hours at select polling locations and personnel from the department’s Civil Rights Division personnel coordinated the federal activities and maintained contact with local election officials.

In addition, the officials said, the department deployed observers and monitors who spoke Spanish, as well as Arabic, and a variety of Asian and Native American languages.

Some of the largest areas being monitored are Maricopa County, Ariz., which includes Phoenix; Pulaski County, Ark., which includes Little Rock; San Diego and San Francisco counties in California; Denver County in Colorado; Broward County in Florida, which includes Fort Lauderdale; Cook County and the City of Chicago in Illinois; New Orleans; Boston; King County in Washington, which includes Seattle.

Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the department has regularly sent observers and monitors around the country to protect election-related civil rights. The department is authorized to ask the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to send federal observers to areas that have been certified for coverage by a federal court or the attorney general.

The OPM monitors check to see if counties and localities comply with federal voting laws by determining whether any voters were challenged improperly on the basis of their race, color or membership in a language minority group; complied with the language minority provisions of the Voting Rights Act; permitted voters who were blind, had disabilities or were unable to read or write assistance by a person of their choice; and permitted all eligible voters to cast a ballot.

Over the past four years, the department has charged 120 persons with election fraud offenses, 86 of whom have been convicted. Another 200 investigations remain open.

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