The Justice Department announced that it will dispatch workers to 64 jurisdictions in 24 states on Election Day to ensure that they are in compliance with federal voting law, an increase from the 44 jurisdictions to which it sent monitors for the 2020 presidential election.
But this year’s midterm elections arrive as Republicans have waged a sustained campaign against alleged voter fraud over the past two years, despite scant evidence of fraud in the 2020 election, and as threats against politicians, their families and election workers have spiked around the country.
Election officials in battleground states are anticipating delayed results and protracted fights once the polls close Tuesday night.
The list of jurisdictions where the Justice Department will dispatch monitors provides a window into where federal law enforcement officials suspect there could be disputes or tensions around the voting process.
Among the places that will be monitored Tuesday but did not receive federal monitors on Election Day 2020: Clark County, Nev., and Pinal County, Ariz. Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, was home to contentious election disputes after the 2020 election, and Pinal County experienced problems during its August primary election.
Berks County, Pa., will also have federal monitors Tuesday and did not have them in 2020. Members of the election board in Berks County adopted a new policy in September in which officials directed sheriff’s deputies manning ballot drop boxes to question voters about whether the ballot they are returning is their own.
Leigh Chapman, Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of state, expressed concern in a letter to the county sheriff that some voters might be intimidated by such an encounter and asked that the new policy not be implemented. But deputies nevertheless were stationed at drop boxes and questioning voters, according to news reports.
The county commissioner who introduced the policy declined to comment Monday.
The Justice Department will also send monitors to Yavapai County, Ariz., where self-styled militia groups have monitored drop boxes in the past.
In Wisconsin, the Justice Department plans to send monitors to Milwaukee, the state’s largest city and the place where the highest-profile disputes over voting have long played out. They also plan to send monitors to Racine, a city south of Milwaukee that recently changed its procedures for counting absentee ballots.
And in North Carolina, federal officials say they will monitor five counties with sizable Black populations: Alamance, Columbus, Harnett, Wayne and Mecklenburg counties.
Racial controversies have roiled two of those counties in recent months, according to local news reports. In Alamance County, a Superior Court judge in September rejected an effort by the North Carolina NAACP and other civil rights groups to remove a 30-foot monument of a Confederate soldier in front of the courthouse. In Columbus County, the sheriff resigned last month after he was recorded making racist remarks about Black employees. His name remains on Tuesday’s ballot.
The North Carolina election board said Monday that it is looking into 15 incidents in which voters or poll workers were intimidated or harassed. Those incidents occurred in 10 counties, including Harnett, Wayne, Mecklenburg and Columbus. Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the state elections board, called the federal oversight “typical” on Monday and said those counties have had “voter intimidation or interference issues.”
But some Republican leaders quickly pushed back on the Justice Department for sending monitors.
Missouri Secretary of State John R. Ashcroft (R) told The Washington Post that the federal presence would “bully a local election authority” and could “intimidate and suppress the vote.” Ashcroft, whose father, John Ashcroft, was the U.S. attorney general during the George W. Bush administration, and Cole County Clerk Steve Korsmeyer (R) told federal officials they would not be permitted to observe polling places on Tuesday.
In addition to dispatching Election Day monitors, FBI special agents serving as election crime coordinators will be on duty in the bureau’s 56 field offices to receive voting-related complaints from the public, according to the Justice Department.
Attorneys at the agency’s National Security Division, which oversees cases related to foreign interference in elections and violent extremist threats to elections, will be working with the FBI and U.S. attorneys’ offices to counter any potential threats.
Employees in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will also operate a hotline all day on Election Day, answering calls from people who spot possible violations of federal voting rights laws.
Amy Gardner, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Jacob Bogage and Patrick Marley contributed to this report.