Justice Department Called on to Protect Minority Voting Rights and Combat Voter Intimidation

Media 10.20,04

Washington – In a lengthy letter to R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, called on the Justice Department to ensure the protection of minority voting rights in the upcoming November 2nd general election and to help mitigate potential voter intimidation and vote suppression.

In its letter, LCCR cited numerous instances from around the country of potential minority voter intimidation and vote suppression.

“From the posting of armed police officers at polling places in Chesterfield County in southern Virginia to disputes over ID requirements in Michigan, Minnesota, and New Mexico and changes in polling places in Florida, there is ample potential for the disenfranchisement of African American, Latino, Asian, and Native American voters,” said Wade Henderson, LCCR’s Executive Director.

“We are asking the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice to monitor and defend the right to vote, a right no less important in America than it is in Afghanistan,” continued Henderson.

“Our letter also expresses concern about statements by Justice Department officials that emphasize its work combating voter fraud on Election Day,” Henderson said. “Such statements coming so close to an election can lead to voter suppression.”

The LCCR letter points to a troubling directive sent to all 93 U.S. Attorneys requiring that they send out a press release “immediately prior to the November elections” that will “advise citizens of the Department’s interest in deterring voting rights abuses and fraud during these elections.” LCCR sued the Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act to make public memoranda and other DOJ directives involving ballot security.

“Finally,” said Henderson, “it is clear to the Government Accountability Office and others that the Justice Department has no effective policy to respond quickly to concerns from the field on Election Day. We need the Justice Department engaged in protecting the right to vote for every American.”