WASHINGTON (CN) - Hundreds of federal observers will monitor polling stations in 23 states today to enforce voters rights, and Florida Democrats already have accused Republicans of suppressing voting.
Department of Justice observers will watch the crucial battleground states of Ohio and Florida. Seven hundred and eighty monitors will work in 51 jurisdictions across the county, the DOJ said in a statement.
Republican legislatures in several states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, have introduced restrictive voting laws which Democrats claim are intended to disenfranchise minority, elder and college student voters.
Florida Republicans cut the early voting period from 14 days to 8. There were long lines and angry voters on the last days of early voting this weekend, with wait times reported as long as 7 hours.
Gov. Rick Scott refused to extend early voting days, including Sunday, traditionally a day that African-Americans go to the polls after attending church.
On Monday, Florida Democrats filed suit to keep polling stations open in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach Counties until the general election, accusing Republicans of suppressing Americans' right to vote.
Ohio Republicans tried to do away with early voting for the three days before the general election before a federal judge ruled the measure unconstitutional. Republicans took the case to the Supreme Court, which upheld the early voting.
And an Ohio voter sued the secretary of state, claiming Election Systems & Software voting machines have an electronic "back door" that will allow tampering with the vote. (See "Ohio Vote Challenged Already" on today's Courthouse News page.)
In October, a Pennsylvania state judge blocked a state law requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls.
In Harris County, Houston, the Republican Party sued Democrats on Monday, claiming they were excluding GOP nominees for election clerks. (See story on today's Courthouse News page.)
The Department of Justice has set up toll-free hotlines to receive complaints of voting rights violations.
"Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the department has regularly sent observers and monitors around the country to protect the rights of voters," the Department of Justice said in a statement.
"The Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the election process on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group. In addition, the act requires certain covered jurisdictions to provide language assistance during the election process."
Federal observers will station themselves in 17 jurisdictions in Ohio, including Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) and neighboring Lorain County, Franklin County (Columbus) and Hamilton County (Cincinnati).
Federal observers will watch polls in 34 jurisdictions in Florida, including the counties of Duval, Hendry, Hillsborough, Lee, Miami-Dade, Orange, and Osceola.
The toll-free number to report voting rights complaints to the Department of Justice is 1-800-253-3921, or email [email protected]
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