Possible Voter Suppression Concerns U.S. Attorney, Local Officials

Early voters cast their ballots at the Los Angeles County Arboretum Monday afternoon. | Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

By Terry Miller

In recent weeks and months there has been a huge amount of attention on possible voter suppression for the upcoming general election Nov 3.

In the emergence of the Trump administration falsely suggesting that mail-in voting is rife with fraud, reports of intimidation at early voting centers, and fires at official ballot boxes, federal prosecutors are taking a serious look at potential 2020 voter suppression.

United States Attorney Nicola T. Hanna announced last Thursday that Assistant United States Attorneys Lindsey Greer Dotson and Thomas F. Rybarczyk will serve as election officers for the central district of California during this year’s general election period, which culminates on Election Day on Nov. 3.

In their capacity, Dotson and Rybarczyk will oversee the handling of complaints related to election fraud and voting rights concerns occurring in the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. If complaints are received, Dotson and Rybarczyk will coordinate with the FBI field office in Los Angeles to investigate them and will consult with the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

Federal law prohibits crimes such as intimidating or bribing voters, buying and selling votes, impersonating voters, altering vote tallies, stuffing ballot boxes, and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input. It also contains special protections for the rights of voters and provides that they can vote free from acts that intimidate or harass them.

For example, actions designed to interrupt or intimidate voters at polling places by questioning or challenging them, or by photographing or videotaping them, under the pretext that these are actions to uncover illegal voting may violate federal voting rights law.

The FBI will have special agents available across the country to receive allegations of election fraud and other election abuses on Election Day. Agents at the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, which serves the same seven counties as the U.S. attorney’s office, can be reached by the public at (310) 477-6565.

To respond to complaints of election fraud or voting rights concerns up to and including Nov. 3, and to ensure that such complaints are directed to the appropriate authorities, Dotson and Rybarczyk will be on duty while the polls are open.

Complaints about possible violations of the federal voting rights laws can also be made directly to the DOJ’s civil rights division in Washington, D.C., by phone at (800) 253-3931 or TTY (202) 305-0082. Individuals may also report complaints by email to voting.section@usdoj.gov and by a complaint form on the DOJ’s website: justice.gov/crt/votercomplaint.

In the case of a crime of violence or intimidation at the polls, voters should call 911 immediately and before contacting federal authorities. State and local police have primary jurisdiction over polling places, and almost always have faster reaction capacity in an emergency. These complaints should also be reported to the DOJ after local authorities have been contacted.

In Pasadena, the NAACP is partnering with The League of Women Voters to combat the potential threat.

According to Pasadena Black Pages, “The organizations are looking for individuals who are interested in being a coordinator or driving people to voting centers.” COVID-19 precaution will be taken, and volunteers will be provided with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, as well as safety guidelines to follow.

“During the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that we all continue to use our voices to shape our communities. Many of our ancestors fought for the right to vote and were brutally attacked and/or killed for trying to exercise their voting right. In an attempt to combat voter suppression or the lack of access to transportation it is important that we come together as a community” says Allen Edson, president of NAACP Pasadena.

Rides to voting polls will be provided from this upcoming Saturday through Election Day. If you are interested in receiving a ride, becoming a driver, or for more information, email the NAACP Pasadena Branch at info@naacppasadena.org.

The League of Women Voters Pasadena Area has also set up a voter hotline, available at (626) 798-0965. Every day from 2-7 p.m. volunteers from the League will answer questions about voting by mail, drop-box locations, polling information and much more. The hotline will remain open until 9 p.m. on Election Day.  

Nationally, CNN’s Pat Brown reported Friday that the Trump campaign is under scrutiny for videotaping Philadelphia voters leaving ballots at drop boxes. The campaign then filed a complaint with city officials alleging that voters had deposited multiple ballots at a time, though city officials reject those assumptions, according to The New York Times. The Pennsylvania attorney general says videotaping voters may amount to illegal voter intimidation.

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