The Department of Justice announced on Monday that on election day it will send civil rights officers to 44 jurisdictions in 18 states to monitor compliance with federal laws.
Although this is common practice for the Department, this year’s deployment is not as extensive as the 2016 election, when staff was deployed in 67 jurisdictions in 28 states.
However, the Department of Justice plans to monitor twice as many cities in Michigan as four years ago.
On Tuesday, staff will be sent to Detroit, Eastpointe, Flint, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Jackson and Shelby Township. In comparison, only Detroit, Hamtramck and Dearborn Heights will be visited in 2016.
Asked why Michigan is being given more focus this year, a department spokesman said on Washington Newsday: “Every year federal elections are held, the department makes a new assessment of where the department should be located and sends staff based on that assessment for that year.
“Our federal laws protect the right of all American citizens to vote without discrimination, intimidation and harassment,” Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Civil Rights, said in a press release on Monday. “The work of the Civil Rights Division around every federal election is a continuation of its historic mission to ensure that all our citizens can freely exercise this most basic of American laws.
By Friday, more than 2.5 million Michigan voters had cast their votes in the run-up to this year’s presidential election, according to the U.S. Elections Project.
The battleground state will likely once again be the key to securing a path to the White House, whether for President Donald Trump or Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
In 2016, Trump unexpectedly won by a very narrow margin of 0.3 percentage points – the narrowest winning margin in the history of Michigan’s presidential election and the narrowest of all states in that election.
According to Five Thirty Eight, Biden is currently leading Michigan by 8.1 points over the president.
The coronavirus pandemic has heightened tensions in Michigan and led to both an increase in early absentee ballots and a stalemate between the state’s Democratic governor and residents who want the state to reopen at full capacity.
Earlier this year, Governor Gretchen Whitmer made headlines nationwide after she imposed one of the most stringent suspension measures in the country-a decision that met with fierce backlashes and armed protests. Last month, the FBI determined that Whitmer was the target of a kidnapping plan because of her response to the ongoing health crisis.
Continued unrest in Michigan has led to fears about voter intimidation tactics at Tuesday’s polling stations.
Last week, a judge blocked the ban by Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on carrying firearms within 100 feet of the Michigan polling stations.
“There are dozens – we have received numerous complaints,” Assistant Attorney General Heather Meingast told Judge Christopher Murray. “There are voters who are scared. There are election workers who are afraid to go to work on election day.
Murray said, however, the order overstepped Benson’s authority.
Benson warned Michiganders to “be prepared that this is closer to election week than election day. The state’s 1,520 local election officials will not be able to count a single absentee ballot by Tuesday.
The Department of Justice will also monitor compliance with the election rules in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin on November 3.
Washington Newsday contacted Benson’s office for comment, but did not hear a response prior to publication.
Update 11/20/02/20 13:41 ET: This news item has been updated with a comment from the Department of Justice….