- The Department of Justice (DOJ) will deploy fewer employees to voting locations this year than in 2016.
- The DOJ says it traditionally sends fewer watchers out during the midterms.
- There have already been instances of harassment reported.
The day before the midterm elections, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced in a press release that they would be sending fewer civil rights monitors to polling places than in 2016, despite reports of voter intimidation and interference occurring during early voting.
DOJ personnel will be deployed to 35 jurisdictions in 19 states, according to the press release. In 2016, DOJ personnel were present in nearly twice the number of locations, monitoring 67 jurisdictions in 28 states, according to a separate press release.
A DOJ representative told Business Insider that traditionally, fewer monitors are deployed during midterm elections, citing the 2014 election when the DOJ sent poll watchers to 28 jurisdictions in 18 states – slightly fewer locations than this year.
Despite the lower profile of midterm elections, threats to voting rights appear to be stronger than ever.
In a September report, the federal Commission on Civil Rights found that federal actions taken against potential voting rights violations decreased sharply since the Supreme Court’s decision to strip the voting rights act in 2013. The DOJ has only pursued four voting rights cases in the last five years, all of them under President Barack Obama.
In the run-up to the 2016 election, numerous voter ID laws appeared and were challenged, some more successfully than others.
This year, voter suppression is still a large problem, according to an Associated Press report that found that 70% of 53,000 voters purged from Georgia’s voter rolls were black. Voters who were pulled can still vote as long as they bring an ID that “substantially matches” the name on their registration, but only two of Georgia’s 159 counties will have watchers from the DOJ present.
Instances of voter intimidation and harassment have also already been reported among early voters.
In Mesquite, Texas, voters reported an unofficial poll watcher looking at their votes over their shoulders and questioning their choices, according to a ProPublica report. In Dallas, the Texas Civil Right Project reported that one person was harassing poll greeters, even calling them “baby killers.”