Officials to monitor five Arizona counties on Election Day
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Federal officials will be watching polling Tuesday in five Arizona counties.
But no one is saying exactly how the Department of Justice selected those five -- or exactly what form that monitoring will take.
In a statement Monday, the agency said it will "monitor compliance with federal voting rights laws'' in 64 jurisdictions in 24 states. In Arizona, that includes Maricopa, Navajo, Pima, Pinal and Yavapai counties.
Those monitors, the agency said, will include personnel not only from its civil rights division but also offices of the U.S. Attorney for Arizona.
The concept, according to the agency, is not new.
"Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act if 1965, the Civil Rights Division has regularly monitored elections in the field in jurisdictions around the country to protect the rights of voters,'' it said in the release. But that doesn't mean other counties will escape scrutiny.
"The Civil Rights Division will also take complaints from the public nationwide regarding possible violations of the federal voting rights laws through its call center,'' the agency said.
The release also says that anyone who sees disruptions at polling places should immediately report that to local election officials, including those working at the site. And people should call 911 over allegations of violence, threats of violence or intimidation at polling places.
Federal officials have said they are charged with enforcing not just the Voting Rights Act but also the Help America Vote Act, the National Voter Registration Act and even the Americans with Disabilities Act.
What that means is making decisions each election cycle depending on a particular decision or particular election. That can include things like making sure voters have ballot access under their primary language or ensuring those with disabilities can cast ballots.
But what it also can include, they have said, is based on questions about both discrimination and voter intimidation.
There is some apparent basis for concern at least in Maricopa County.
Some of it is based on activities this year by Clean Elections USA to monitor ballot drop boxes, with several of those who posted themselves nearby armed or wearing tactical gear.
Most of the organization's activities were barred last week by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Liburdi. While the judge did not forbid people from monitoring -- from at least 75 feet away -- he said they cannot take videos of would-be voters within that 75-foot perimeter and said anyone who is visibly armed or in tactical gear must remain at least 250 feet from the boxes.
But there also is history in the county.
Trump supporters protested at its election offices for days after the results of the 2020 election were announced declaring that Democrat Joe Biden had won not only the county but had outpolled the incumbent. County officials have now constructed both fences and vehicle barriers around the building.
And several current candidates continue to charge there was fraud in the 2020 election, with Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, saying that the "audit'' she ordered of Maricopa County returns is still ongoing despite the fact that a hand count confirmed Biden's victory -- and by even a slightly larger margin than the official results.
Elsewhere, separate groups had announced plans to monitor drop boxes in Yavapai County. But representatives of both groups told Liburdi last week they were not pursing that action.
There has been no such activities in Pima County. But the state's second largest county drew attention after Trump claimed voter fraud there in the 2020 election, allegations that were refuted after an investigation by the county attorney.
Monitoring by the Department of Justice is not new. But it is a marked increase from what the agency did two years earlier when it decided to keep watch on 44 jurisdictions in 18 states, including just Coconino, Maricopa and Yavapai counties.
Complaints can be filed with the Department of Justice through its toll-free line at 800-253-3931 or on its website of "https://civilrights/justice.gov''.
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