Criminal Prosecutor Poll Monitors in MD Will Create an Atmosphere of Voter Intimidation, Says ACLU

October 21, 2008 12:00 am

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CONTACT: (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.orgWASHINGTON – Today in direct contradiction to a Department of Justice statement, the Washington Post reports that federal criminal prosecutors will monitor polling places in Maryland on November 4. In a Department of Justice statement, Acting Assistant Attorney General Grace Chung Becker announced on September 23 that “I want to inform the public that no criminal prosecutors will be utilized as election monitors on Election Day this year.” This move was prompted by the ACLU repeatedly urging the Department of Justice to avoid using federal prosecutors as poll monitors because of the possibility their presence would create an atmosphere of voter intimidation.

In addition, yesterday, US Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein issued a statement publicizing the fact that a team of federal prosecutors and FBI agents will “remain on duty throughout the day while the polls are open.” While the U.S. Attorney’s office statement shows a highly-profile attempt to raise the specter of voter fraud, its statement does little, if anything, to deal with the real problem of racially motivated voter suppression schemes that may face Maryland voters.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“Grace Chung Becker gave the ACLU and other civil rights groups a written commitment that the Department of Justice would not send prosecutors to the polls. Becker’s announcement was an important first step in creating a voting environment free of intimidation for all voters, especially new and minority voters.

“In light of today’s news, Becker’s September 23 statement seems to be a sleight of hand with Civil Rights Division saying one thing, but a U.S. Attorney and FBI saying something else. When there is little to no evidence of in-person voter fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s public statement is particularly troubling. Governmental officials should place resources into expanding access to the ballot and protecting Maryland voters from racially targeted deceptive practices that have disenfranchised voters in recent Maryland elections. ”

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