Friday, October 29, 2004
U.S. Slates Effort on Election Law Enforcement
Federal Prosecutor, FBI Agents Will Be on Call if Problems Arise Here, Yang Says
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
The U.S. Department of Justice will once again this year have a prosecutor and FBI agents available to investigate claims of voter fraud or other federal election law violations, U.S. Attorney Debra Yang of the Central District of California said yesterday.
“The Department of Justice takes any allegation of voting rights abuses extremely seriously,” Yang said in a statement. “Citizens should not hesitate to report possible violations of voting rights laws.”
As has been the case the past two elections, Yang has designated Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Valenzuela to serve as the DOJ district election officer. District election officers from throughout the country have received special training in enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and other federal election laws.
Valenzuela’s role, the department explained in a release, is to “ensure that complaints of election fraud and voting rights abuses made to federal authorities will be properly handled and, if appropriate, thoroughly investigated.”
Residents of Los Angeles and other Central District counties can call Valenzuela with election law complaints during all hours that the polls are open, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m, the department said. The number is 213-894-2434.
Voters can also call special agents of the FBI at its offices throughout the district. The Los Angeles County locations and phone numbers are Westwood, telephone 310-477-6565; Lancaster, 661-948-9399; Long Beach, 562-432-6951, and West Covina, 626-919-3434.
“Agents will be standing by throughout Election Day and after the polls close to investigate citizen complaints of fraud at voting sites,” Richard Garcia, assistant director in charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, said in a release. “The FBI is committed to protecting the democratic process and upholding every citizen’s right to vote.”
Complaints about ballot access problems or discrimination can also be made directly to the Washington-based Voting Section in the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ in Washington at (800) 253-3931 or (202) 307-2767, the department said.
With Democrats expected to easily win the statewide voting for president and U.S. senator, California has not seen the types of allegations of vote fraud or intimidation that are now beginning to pop up in the “battleground” states. The DOJ said it will assign extra personnel to some of those states to monitor voting. (See related story, Page 8.)
The FBI confirmed that it is already investigating charges in the battleground state of Nevada, the Las Vegas Sun reported yesterday.
That case revolves around an allegation made by Eric Russell, a former employee of the Republican-funded Voters Outreach of America. Russell alleges that he caught supervisors tearing up Democratic voter registration forms.
The Nevada advisory committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has asked the commission’s Washington office to contact the DOJ on the matter, the Sun reported, citing comments by David Sanchez, the advisory committee’s chairman.
“If these allegations of voter disenfranchisement are true, then the Nevada State Advisory Committee believes there are serious violation of federal laws concerning voting rights,” Sanchez wrote in a letter to Mary Frances Berry, chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Washington.
Nathan Sproul, an Arizona resident who leads Voters Outreach, filed a slander lawsuit against Russell for making the allegations. However, that lawsuit was filed in Arizona, which may not have jurisdiction over the case, and Russell’s attorneys have not been served with the lawsuit.
Republicans are charging that the allegations of voter fraud are part of a Democratic tactic to lay the groundwork for challenging election results. Similar issues with voter registration rolls are alleged in Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and other swing states.
Russell has been interviewed by the FBI, as has his girlfriend, who made similar allegations. Sproul said Russell is a disgruntled employee who is making up the story.
In the non-battleground state of Illinois, meanwhile, the American Bar Association said it would join with other groups to monitor the election on a nonpartisan basis. Other participants in the effort include People for the American Way Foundation, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Bar Association and many other civil rights organizations and bar associations, the ABA said in a release.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company