When Americans head to the polls on Tuesday for the midterm elections, voters in 35 counties — from Las Vegas to Dallas to Tampa — will head to precincts that are being closely monitored by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for “compliance with the federal voting rights laws,” the DOJ announced Monday.
“Voting rights are constitutional rights, and they’re part of what it means to be an American,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.
Sessions also warned that “fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated.”
In January, President Donald Trump shut down a commission he created shortly after he arrived at the Oval Office to investigate possible voter fraud. In its six months of existence, that commission did not turn up any evidence of voter fraud from the 2016 election.
The list of jurisdictions that the DOJ will monitor comprises 35 counties, including many that election experts say are pivotal battlegrounds for the outcomes of roughly a half-dozen neck-and-neck Senate races and even more House races.
Civil Rights Division personnel will observe, for example, Maricopa County, Arizona, which encompasses much of Phoenix. Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema hopes to see a surge of voting in Phoenix for her Senate match-up against GOP Rep. Martha McSally, who will be looking for a strong showing from the county's non-urban reaches. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Arizona Senate race Tilts Democratic.
Clark County (Las Vegas) and Washoe County (Reno) in Nevada will also be subject to the DOJ's monitoring efforts. Nevada GOP Sen. Dean Heller faces Rep. Jacky Rosen in another prime pick-up opportunity for the Democrats in a race rated Tilts Democratic by Inside Elections.
In Florida, where Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has faced an historically expensive challenge from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, DOJ personnel will be keeping an eye on polling places in Pinellas County (Tampa) and Palm Beach County. Inside Elections also rates that race Tilts Democratic.
The Texas, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania Senate races will also have some polling places under DOJ surveillance.
On the House side, key races where DOJ personnel will monitor polling places include Iowa’s 4th District, where GOP Rep. Steve King is trying to fight back a surprising late surge from Democrat J.D. Scholten; Texas’ 7th District in the Houston suburbs, where Rep. John Culberson faces Democrat Lizzie Fletcher in a race rated Tilts Republican; and Virginia’s 10th District, where Democrat Jennifer Wexton is challenging GOP incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock in a race rated Tilts Democratic.
Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the Civil Rights Division at the DOJ has regularly monitored hundreds of federal, state, and local elections around the country every year to ensure compliance with the law.
The 1965 law has for decades aimed to protect minority populations from systemic suppression and intimidation methods.
Trump tweeted Monday that law enforcement officials have been “strongly notified to watch closely for any ILLEGAL VOTING” in Tuesday’s election.
Law Enforcement has been strongly notified to watch closely for any ILLEGAL VOTING which may take place in Tuesday’s Election (or Early Voting). Anyone caught will be subject to the Maximum Criminal Penalties allowed by law. Thank you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 5, 2018
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