U.S. to Send Poll Watchers to 69 Jurisdictions

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By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 7, 2006

The Justice Department is dispatching more than 850 people to watch the polls in 69 jurisdictions across the country today, focusing primarily on areas with closely contested races or a high number of minority voters.

The number of poll watchers is a record for Justice and more than twice the number sent during the 2002 midterm elections, officials said yesterday. Justice has sent observers and monitors to polls around the country since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 took effect.

This year's effort targets numerous Democratic-leaning metropolitan areas, including Chicago, Boston, Austin, several counties in the New York City area, the Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale areas in Florida, the San Francisco Bay area, and the Seattle-Tacoma area in Washington.

Republican-leaning areas are also represented, including Orange County, Calif.; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; and the suburban Houston district previously represented in the House by Tom DeLay.

But no observers are being sent to Missouri, Tennessee or Virginia, where three of the most hotly contested U.S. Senate races will play out.

Nor are observers going to Philadelphia. The Justice Department charged last month that the city has discriminated against Spanish-speaking voters, but an appeals court blocked the placement of monitors at the polls.

The Justice Department said in a news release that the observers will focus on determining whether localities are complying with federal laws forbidding discrimination based on race, disability or language.

About 350 people are monitors employed by Justice, and more than 500 others are observers from other federal agencies, officials said.

More than a dozen of the jurisdictions are on Indian reservations.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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