Voters in Harris and Fort Bend counties will get an extra treat on Election Day: Federal poll watchers.
As a result of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (now 47 years old!), the federal government attempts to make sure every registered voter regardless of race, color "or membership in a minority language group" has his or her voting rights protected.
" In addition, the act requires certain covered jurisdictions to provide language assistance during the election process. Under the Voting Rights Act, the department is authorized to ask the Office of Personnel Management to send federal observers to areas that have been certified for coverage by a federal court or the attorney general. The department also may send its own staff to monitor elections in other jurisdictions," according to a press release from the U.S. Justice Department.
So, on November 6, federal observers will be monitoring polling places in 17 jurisdictions that include Ford Bend County, Dallas County and Jefferson County.
In addition, the U. S. Justice Department will be in Harris County. Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan's office plans a phone Monday with the DOJ to discuss what's entailed.
According to the DOJ:
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The observers and department personnel will gather information on, among other things, whether voters are subject to different voting qualifications or procedures on the basis of race, color, or membership in a language minority group; whether jurisdictions are complying with the minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act; whether jurisdictions permit voters to receive assistance by a person of his or her choice if the voter is blind, has a disability, or is unable to read or write; whether jurisdictions allow voters with disabilities to cast a private and independent ballot; whether jurisdictions comply with the voter registration list requirements of the National Voter Registration Act; and whether jurisdictions comply with the provisional ballot requirements of the Help America Vote Act. To assist in these inquiries, the department has deployed observers and monitors who speak Spanish and a variety of Asian and Native American languages. Both the federal observers and department personnel will coordinate monitoring activities, and department attorneys maintain contact with local election officials.
Last month, the Justice Department announced efforts 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. More information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting and election-related laws is available on the Civil Rights Division's website.
Here's the complete list:
On Election Day, federal observers will monitor polling place activities in 17 jurisdictions:
Russell County, Ala.; Maricopa County, Ariz.; Alameda County, Calif.; Riverside County, Calif.; Randolph County, Ga.; East Carroll Parish, La.; Panola County, Miss.; Colfax County, Neb.; Sandoval County, N.M.; Orange County, N.Y.; Cuyahoga County, Ohio; Lorain County, Ohio; Williamsburg County, S.C.; Shannon County; S.D.; Dallas County, Texas; Fort Bend County, Texas; and Jefferson County, Texas.
Justice Department personnel will monitor the election in an additional 34 jurisdictions:
Mobile County, Ala.; Pima County, Ariz.; Arapahoe County, Colo.; Denver; Duval County, Fla.; Hendry County, Fla.; Hillsborough County, Fla.; Lee County, Fla.; Miami-Dade County, Fla.; Orange County, Fla.; Osceola County, Fla.; Chicago & Cook County, Ill.; LaPorte County, Ind.; Finney County, Kan.; Detroit & Hamtramck, Mich.; Alamance County, N.C.; Wake County, N.C.; Bernalillo County, N.M.; Cibola County, N.M.; Queens County, N.Y.; Franklin County, Ohio; Hamilton County, Ohio; Allegheny County, Pa.; Chester County, Pa.; Delaware County, Pa.; Lehigh County, Pa.; Philadelphia; Richland County, S.C.; Davidson County, Tenn.; Shelby County, Tenn.; Harris County, Texas; and Milwaukee