- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Amid frenetic talk of a “rigged” election, U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch on Wednesday pledged that the federal government will work to protect the public’s right to vote to the extent they can, as voters head to the polls to elect a president for the first time since a 2013 ruling invalidated a key part of the Voting Rights Act.

“As the American people prepare to go to the polls, I want them to know that we stand ready to ensure that every voter can cast his or her ballot free of unlawful intimidation, discrimination or obstruction,” Ms. Lynch said in a video message released Wednesday.

The Department of Justice plans to deploy “hundreds” of personnel to “carefully monitor” the election process in about half of the 50 states, Ms. Lynch said.

She has said the DOJ’s presence will be in at least as many states as in 2012, when the department sent more than 780 workers to 23 states.

Ms. Lynch said monitors would be on the lookout for things like whether voters are treated differently based on their race, whether localities are equipped to handle people with disabilities and whether they’re complying with a requirement to provide bilingual material and assistance in areas of need.

The 2016 election will also be the first presidential contest since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that a formula used in requiring certain Southern states to clear their election practices with the federal government under the VRA is outdated.

Ms. Lynch said the ruling “limited one of our most important tools to fight laws and policies that make it harder for many Americans, especially low-income citizens and citizens of color, to cast their ballots.”

Since the 2012 election, a number of states have also passed new voter identification laws, some of which have prompted ongoing litigation and pushback from the Justice Department.

Ms. Lynch said everyone, regardless of political party, should exercise their right to vote.

Her comments come as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has stepped up his charges that the 2016 election will be “rigged.” He’s encouraged supporters to monitor the polls for any potential funny business, and name-checked specific cities like Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis as suspect areas.

Mr. Trump is definitely trying to put pressure on people like poll workers, as well as electors who will officially select the president in December, said Robert Alexander, a political science professor at Ohio Northern University.

“It’s a full-court press in a way that I have not seen,” he said.

Meanwhile, GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence has encouraged citizens to “respectfully” participate in the process of the election by offering to be a poll watcher or volunteer.

“How he’s making the case is [the] same way Republicans have made the case for preserving voter sanctity for quite a while now,” Mr. Alexander said. “Trump is making the case that you would see in your Twitter feed or your Facebook feed.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is also in the middle of the group’s assessment of the U.S. elections. The group plans to issue an interim report on its activities soon, and plans to provide a preliminary statement and assessment of the election process the day after Election Day.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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