Election 2017

Justice Department to monitor polls in Philly on Election Day

Philadelphia is among a list of 67 jurisdictions where the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division will deploy personnel.

Philly Skyline
Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

The United States Dept. of Justice will monitor polling places in Philadelphia on Election Day tomorrow, the department announced today.

Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and the Lehigh Valley are among a list of 67 jurisdictions where the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division will deploy personnel. In a press release, officials emphasized that since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the department has “regularly” monitored elections in certain jurisdictions across the country.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in the statement that the DOJ will enforce federal statutes by filing their own litigation, submitting statements of interest in private lawsuits and working with election officials and members of the public in interpreting laws.

On Election Day, lawyers for the DOJ will be staffing a hotline all day (toll free at 1-800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767 or TTY 202-305-0082) and “will continue to have a robust election monitors program in place.”

“As always, our personnel will perform these duties impartially, with one goal in mind: to see to it that every eligible voter can participate in our elections to the full extent that federal law provides,” Lynch said in the prepared statement.

The Department said that complaints related to disruption at a polling place should always be reported immediately to local election officials.

In addition to Philadelphia, the DOJ will also deploy personnel to Allegheny County (where Pittsburgh is located) and Lehigh County (where Allentown is located).

The move comes amid nationwide concerns about voter fraud and voter intimidation. GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has peddled concerns that the election has been rigged against him while simultaneously encouraging his supporters to closely watch polls. The city of Philadelphia has beefed up its Election Fraud Task Force, making available every assistant district attorney who’s not due in court to respond to problems at the polls. If you encounter any problems voting, or someone is bullying or preventing you from voting, call the Election day Fraud Task Force at 215-686-9641, 215-686-9643 or 215-686-9644.

In addition, a federal judge this morning tossed a Pennsylvania lawsuit that alleged Donald Trump’s campaign engaged in voter intimidation and suppression in the state. The Pennsylvania Democratic Party had quietly filed suit last week against the Trump campaign, the Pennsylvania Republican Party and a pro-Trump poll watcher site.

As voter intimidation is a civil rights issue, the Pa. Dems claimed that the parties have violated the Voting Rights Act — which bars voting discrimination on the basis of race — and the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, an anti-terrorism law that bans conspiracies to threaten or intimidate and allows federal powers to intervene over local and state jurisdictions.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul S. Diamond granted the PA GOP’s motion to quash and deemed the PA Dems’ allegations moot.

The original lawsuit cited a late October Bloomberg News story that offered a behind-the-scenes look at the Trump campaign and its late campaign strategies. The Bloomberg report quoted an official saying, “We have three major voter suppression operations under way.” The story detailed that they’re targeting “white liberals, young women and African Americans” specifically.

Want some more? Explore other Election 2017 stories.

Thanks for reading another Billy Penn story

Find everything you need to know about Philly, every day — in clear, direct language, like a good friend might say.

No clickbait, no cliffhangers: the Billy Penn morning newsletter.

Thanks for supporting Billy Penn!

Test your local knowledge — join us for the next Philly Quizzo virtual event, or take the quiz online.

Lock in your support

Reader support powers our local pandemic reporting. A monthly membership helps lock it in.

Can we count on you as a Billy Penn sustainer?