The Justice Department is expanding in-person monitoring of polling places for Tuesday’s midterms to areas in nearly half of U.S. states, DOJ officials said Monday.
Federal monitors looking for potential civil rights violations and voter intimidation will fan out to 64 jurisdictions in 24 states, a marked increase from the presidential election two years ago when DOJ sent monitors to 44 jurisdictions in 18 states.
Alaska, Arkansas, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island and Utah didn’t make the Justice Department’s list in 2020, but are on it this year. Chicago and Cook County, Ill. were monitored by the feds two years ago, but no locations in Illinois are on this year’s roster.
The Justice Department appears to be incrementally stepping up its attention this year in states that have seen particular tension around ballot drop boxes.
In Arizona, where incidents of armed men stationed near ballot boxes led to a restraining order against such activities by some groups, the Justice Department is expanding election-day scrutiny to five counties from three two years ago. Among the new additions is Pima County, the state’s second most populous.
In Texas, where ballot drop boxes led to numerous court challenges in 2020, federal authorities added Dallas County to the monitoring list, joining Houston-based Harris County and rural Waller County.
While the number of states and jurisdictions being scrutinized by federal monitors is up from both the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential year, DOJ seems to have cast its net more broadly in the 2016 presidential year, when 67 jurisdictions in 28 states were monitored.
Regular federal monitoring of elections has taken place since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Monitors are drawn from Justice’s Civil Rights Division and local U.S. Attorney’s offices, supplemented by employees from other federal agencies.