In anticipation of the upcoming general elections, the Department of Justice provided information on Tuesday about its efforts through the Civil Rights Division and Criminal Division to ensure that all qualified voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots and have their votes counted free of discrimination, intimidation or fraud in the election process.
“Voting rights are constitutional rights, and they’re part of what it means to be an American,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “The Department of Justice has been entrusted with an indispensable role in securing these rights for the people of this nation. This year we are using every lawful tool that we have, both civil and criminal, to protect the rights of millions of Americans to cast their vote unimpeded at one of more than 170,000 precincts across America. Citizens of America control this country through their selection of their governmental officials at the ballot box. Likewise, fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated. Fraud also corrupts the integrity of the ballot.”
Civil Rights Division:
The Civil Rights Division is responsible for ensuring compliance with the civil provisions of federal statutes that protect the right to vote, and with the criminal provisions of federal statutes prohibiting discriminatory interference with that right.
The Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section enforces the civil provisions of a wide range of federal statutes that protect the right to vote including the Voting Rights Act, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the Help America Vote Act, and the Civil Rights Acts. Among other things, collectively, these laws:
- prohibit election practices that have either a discriminatory purpose based on race or membership in a minority language group or a discriminatory result such that members of racial or language minority groups have less opportunity than other citizens to participate in the political process;
- prohibit intimidation of voters;
- provide that voters who need assistance in voting because of disability or illiteracy can obtain assistance from a person of their choice (other than agents of their employer or union);
- provide for accessible voting machines for voters with disabilities;
- provide for provisional ballots for voters who assert they are registered and eligible but whose names do not appear on poll books;
- provide for absentee registration and ballots for uniformed service members, their family members and U.S. citizens living abroad;
- provide that citizens can register to vote through drivers’ license, public assistance or disability services offices, and through the mail; and
- include requirements regarding maintaining voter registration lists.
The Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section enforces federal criminal statutes that prohibit voter intimidation and voter suppression based on race, color, national origin or religion.
On Election Day, Nov. 6, 2018, the Civil Rights Division will implement a comprehensive program to help protect the right to vote that will include the following:
- The Civil Rights Division will conduct monitoring in the field at polling places around the country.
- Civil Rights Division staff in Washington, D.C., will be ready to receive election-related complaints of potential violations relating to any of the federal statutes the division enforces. The division will take appropriate action and will coordinate with other entities within the Department of Justice concerning these complaints before, during, and after Election Day.
- Civil Rights Division staff will be available to receive complaints related to voting by telephone (1-800-253-3931 toll free or 202-307-2767) or by TTY (202-305-0082), by fax (202-307-3961), by email (firstname.lastname@example.org(link sends e-mail)), and, by complaint form on the Department’s website at https://www.justice.gov/crt/voting-section.
Complaints related to violence, threats of violence, or intimidation at a polling place should always be reported immediately to local authorities by calling 911. They should also be reported to the Department after local authorities are contacted.
Criminal Division and the Department’s 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices:
The Department’s Criminal Division oversees the enforcement of federal laws that criminalize certain forms of election fraud and protect the integrity of the federal election process.
The Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and the Department’s 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices are responsible for enforcing the federal criminal laws that prohibit various forms of election fraud, such as vote buying, multiple voting, submission of fraudulent ballots or registrations, alteration of votes, and malfeasance by election officials. The Criminal Division is also responsible for enforcing federal criminal law prohibiting voter intimidation for reasons other than race, color, national origin, or religion (as noted above, voter intimidation that has a basis in race, color, national origin or, religion is addressed by the Civil Rights Division).
The U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country designate Assistant U.S. Attorneys who serve as district election officers (DEOs) in the respective districts. DEOs are responsible for overseeing potential election-crime matters in their districts, and for coordinating with the Department’s election-crime experts in Washington, D.C.
On Nov. 6, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices will work with specially trained FBI personnel in each district to ensure that complaints from the public involving possible voter fraud are handled appropriately. Specifically:
- In consultation with federal prosecutors at the Public Integrity Section in Washington, D.C., the District Election Officers in U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, FBI officials at Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and FBI special agents serving as Election Crime Coordinators in the FBI’s 56 field offices will be on duty while polls are open, to receive complaints from the public.
- Election-crime complaints should be directed to the local U.S. Attorney’s Offices or the local FBI office. A list of U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and their telephone numbers can be found at https://www.justice.gov/usao/find-your-united-states-attorney. A list of FBI offices and accompanying telephone numbers can be found at www.fbi.gov/contact-us.
- Public Integrity Section prosecutors are available to consult and coordinate with the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the FBI regarding the handling of election-crime allegations.
Complaints related to violence, threats of violence, or intimidation at a polling place should be reported first to local police authorities by calling 911.
Both protecting the right to vote and combating election fraud are essential to maintaining the confidence of all Americans in our democratic system of government. The Department encourages anyone with information suggesting voting discrimination or ballot fraud to contact the appropriate authorities, and notes in particular that the Department of Homeland Security plays its own important role in safeguarding critical election infrastructure from cyber and other threats.