Republican-Led States Reject the Intrusion of DOJ Poll Monitoring

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice informed several state attorneys general that it would be sending election monitors to jurisdictions within their states on Monday. The memo released the day before Election Day named 64 jurisdictions in 24 states where employees from the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division Voting Section, U.S. Attorney’s offices, and the Office of Personnel Management will monitor the process. According to the memo:

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The Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section enforces the civil provisions 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. The division’s Disability Rights Section enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure that persons with disabilities have a full and equal opportunity to vote. The division’s Criminal Section enforces federal criminal statutes that prohibit voter intimidation and voter suppression based on race, color, national origin or religion

The DOJ has deployed monitors in elections previously. In 2016, it deployed more than 500 employees to 67 jurisdictions in 28 states. In 2020, the Civil Rights Division only monitored 44 jurisdictions in 18 states. While this activity may have gone on in the past, the DOJ’s most recent notice has raised the ire of several states. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appeared on Glenn Beck’s radio program yesterday and said he was researching state law to prevent the DOJ from entering polling places.

Early Tuesday morning, the Florida Department of State sent a letter to the DOJ banning the agency’s monitors from polling places in the state. According to the memo, DOJ monitors are not allowed inside polling places under the Florida statute that lists who is allowed in polling places. This year the DOJ targeted Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Broward counties for observation.

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Related: Democrats Are Losing, So Politico Is Very Worried About Election Integrity

General counsel for the Florida Department of State Brad McVay asked for justification for the intrusion or a federal law that preempts Florida law. The letters sent to the counties did not provide any evidence that monitors were required, and none of the three counties are under election-related consent decrees. McVay also asserted there were no accusations of the targeted locations violating the voting rights of Florida residents based on language, race, age, or disability.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft also asserted that state law reserves the right to determine who, other than voters and poll watchers, can enter polling places. Cole County Clerk Steve Korsmeyer declined to allow the DOJ to enter polling locations in his county and received Ashcroft’s support. In a Twitter thread, Ashcroft said the DOJ was welcome to visit his office to discuss further, but placing federal agents in polling locations on Election Day was inappropriate.

Looking at the list, it does not appear there is any rhyme or reason for the selections. The only news on Miami-Dade is that it could go red for the first time in modern history. Broward County was an embarrassment for years but seems to have brought its process in line with the rest of the state. In my home state of Georgia, the DOJ wants to go into three of the largest counties in the state. Fulton is the new Broward and became a national embarrassment in 2020. However, there have not been recent issues or allegations in Cobb or Gwinnett County. They are critical suburbs in danger of going red again, but that is it.

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In the current environment, providing a justification for the DOJ’s intrusion is not a big ask. The Biden administration has burned any goodwill it may have had with Republicans with its rhetoric on right-wing extremism, President Biden’s “red speech,” and pre-election denial. The Civil Rights Division “overseeing” elections is run by known radical Kristen Clarke. Her recent actions include bringing federal charges against a few dozen pro-life activists based on old protests where local law enforcement did not press charges. The FBI conducted armed raids at two activists’ homes.

Merrick Garland’s DOJ appears to be weaponized against Republicans and conservatives. Everything from the handling of the January 6 investigation to the investigation of parents who oppose radical K-12 curriculum smacks of the federal law enforcement agencies acting as the enforcement arm of the Biden administration. So in an election year where forecasts predict Republicans doing very well, the DOJ’s actions seem unnecessarily incendiary in the absence of proper justification.

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