Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice will monitor Tuesday's primaries in five Florida counties -- Collier, Hendry, Lee, Osceola and Polk -- to make sure that elections officials there will provide language assistance in Spanish.
The DOJ announced the monitoring today in a short news release, which also mentioned that the city of Milwaukee, Wis. would be monitored as well. It's not certain if the oversight was regular procedure or sparked by complaints. Each year, the DOJ deploys hundreds of federal observers to monitor elections across the nation.
But the department doesn't comment as to how jurisdictions are chosen for monitoring, said Mitchell Rivard, a DOJ spokesman.
In 1972, those counties used English language ballots for non-English speaking voters, which was classified as a documented case of discrimination based on race or language. But the other three counties included, Hardee, Monroe and Hillsborough, were not included on the list of counties that would be monitored tomorrow.
Despite recent tension between the DOJ and Florida's efforts to purge voter rolls of suspected noncitizens, the monitoring appears to be unrelated. In July, the DOJ sued Florida for the purge, alleging it ignored a requirement that it get approval first.
Chris Cate, a spokesman for the Florida Division of Elections, said he thinks the monitoring is routine, but said he would find out more later today.
Here's the release:
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT TO MONITOR ELECTIONS IN FLORIDA AND WISCONSIN
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that it will monitor elections on Aug. 14, 2012, in the following jurisdictions to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other federal voting rights statutes: Collier, Hendry, Lee, Osceola and Polk Counties, Fla.; and the city of Milwaukee, Wis.
The Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the election process on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group. In addition, the act requires certain covered jurisdictions to provide language assistance during the election process. Collier, Hendry, Lee, Osceola and Polk Counties, as well as the city of Milwaukee, are required to provide language assistance in Spanish.
Civil Rights Division personnel will monitor polling place activities in these jurisdictions. Civil Rights Division attorneys will coordinate federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.
Each year, the Justice Department deploys hundreds of federal observers from the Office of Personnel Management, as well as departmental staff, to monitor elections across the country. To file complaints about discriminatory voting practices, including acts of harassment or intimidation, voters may call the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931.
Visit www.justice.gov/crt/voting/index.php for more information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws.
--By Michael Van Sickler