Federal election monitors sent to polls in three metro Atlanta counties

The Justice Department will send monitors to three metro Atlanta counties in an effort to ensure compliance with federal voting rights laws in Tuesday’s elections.

Staffers from the Department of Justice will observe election facilities in Fulton, Gwinnett, and Cobb counties, the DOJ announced Monday. They’re typically lawyers with the department’s civil rights division and U.S. attorney’s offices across the country.

Their presence isn’t unusual nor unique to Georgia, however it comes amid issues with absentee ballots in Cobb County, and nationwide concerns over voter intimidation at some polling places and ballot boxes.


In Gwinnett County, election supervisor Zach Manifold said the DOJ reached out to let him know they were coming. 

"[They will] go around, observe polling locations, just to make sure that we’re meeting those standards," Manifold said. "They talk to us year-round just about accessibility."

He said that because Gwinnett has such a large part of the population that speaks Spanish, federal law requires them to have a Spanish ballot, which is oftentimes the focus of the monitors. 

It’s unclear why the feds picked Cobb and Fulton.

"Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Division has regularly monitored elections in the field in jurisdictions around the country to protect the rights of voters," the DOJ said in a news release.


In all, the DOJ staffers will be in about 64 voting jurisdictions in 24 states across the country.

Who are the election monitors?

The monitors are lawyers who work for the U.S. government. They are not law enforcement officers or federal agents. They generally include lawyers from the Justice Department’s civil rights division and U.S. attorney’s offices across the nation. The government also sometimes brings in employees from other agencies, such as the Office of Personnel Management, who are authorized to act as monitors under a federal court order.

According to the DOJ, the monitors will include personnel from the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys' offices. "In addition, the division also deploys monitors from the Office of Personnel Management, where authorized by federal court order. Division personnel will also maintain contact with state and local election officials."

The attorneys will be in regular touch with election officials in the locations and will watch for signs of disruption to voters’ ability to cast ballots. There is also a call-in line should voters feel they are suffering discrimination at a polling place.

Why is the federal government sending monitors to watch election sites?

The monitors are being sent to "protect the rights of voters," as they have for decades, the Justice Department said Monday.

The Justice Department has sent attorneys to monitor election sites and compliance with federal voting laws for more than five decades. The department’s civil rights lawyers are responsible for enforcing civil action tied to the voting statutes and protecting the right to vote.

The laws they enforce include the Voting Rights Act, along with the National Voter Registration Act and other statutes. Prosecutors in the same division also enforce criminal statutes that prohibit voter intimidation and efforts to suppress voting based on someone’s race, national origin or religion.

Some of the locations where they have been sent include areas where there were concerns in 2020, as well as locations where issues have already been raised this year.

What does the Civil Rights Division's Voting Section enforce?

"The Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section enforces the civil provisions of federal statutes that protect the right to vote, including the Voting Rights Act, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the Help America Vote Act and the Civil Rights Acts. The division’s Disability Rights Section enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure that persons with disabilities have a full and equal opportunity to vote. The division’s Criminal Section enforces federal criminal statutes that prohibit voter intimidation and voter suppression based on race, color, national origin or religion."

What do I do if I have a complaint?

On Election Day, the public can file a complaint on https://civilrights.justice.gov or call 800-253-3931.

For questions or complaints related to the ADA, individuals can call the information line at 800-514-0301 or 833-610-1264 (TTY) or submit a complaint through the ADA website at https://www.ada.gov.

The Justice Department says complaints leading to disruption at a polling place should be immediately reported to local election officials.

"Complaints related to violence, threats of violence or intimidation at a polling place should be reported immediately to local police authorities by calling 911. These complaints should also be reported to the department after local authorities have been contacted."

Where are the other monitors being sent?

The city of Bethel, Dillingham Census Area, Kusilvak Census Area and Sitka City-Borough in Alaska; Newton County in Arkansas, Maricopa County in Arizona, Navajo County in Arizona, Pima County in Arizona; Pinal County inArizona, Los Angeles County and Sonoma County in California; Broward County, Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach County in Florida; the town of Clinton, and the cities of Fitchburg, Leominster, Everett, Malden, Methuen, Randolph and Salem in Massachusetts; Prince George’s County in Maryland; Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Pontiac and Southfield in Michigan; Minneapolis, Hennepin and Ramsey counties in Minnesota; Cole County in Missouri; Alamance County, Columbus County, Harnett County, Mecklenburg County and Wayne County in North Carolina; Middlesex County in New Jersey Bernalillo County and San Juan County in New Mexico; Clark County and Washoe County in Nevada; the borough of Queens in New York City; Cuyahoga County in Ohio; Berks County, Centre County, Lehigh County, Luzerne County, Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania; the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island; Horry County in South Carolina; Dallas County, Harris County and Waller County, Texas; San Juan County, Utah; Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park in Virginia; and Milwaukee and Racine, Wisconsin.

Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, Summer Ballentine, and members of the FOX 10 Phoenix digital team contributed to this report.