Sonoma County was selected to be one of 64 voting jurisdictions around the country in which federal election monitors are being deployed today, in an effort to protect voting rights and ensure people have access to the polls.
The DOJ's Civil Rights Division made the announcement Monday that it intended to send federal poll watchers out to 64 jurisdictions across 24 states on Election Day — and they don't appear to have been chosen at random. While five counties in Arizona made the list — including Maricopa County where there have been recent reports of armed individuals in tactical gear stationed near ballot boxes — as well as three big counties in Florida (Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties), only two are in California. Those are Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the nation with 9.9 people, and Sonoma County, which is relatively quite small — but maybe there's been some right-wing election shenanigans we haven't heard about there?
Sonoma County’s Registrar of Voters tells the Press-Democrat that she did not get very much notice about the DOJ sending in civil rights lawyers.
"We were probably selected because we are a newly bilingual county," says Registrar Deva Marie Proto, speaking to the Press-Democrat. "The purpose of the DOJ monitoring is to ensure that we are providing access to voting as required by federal law — that we have the proper signage, translations, language assistance, ADA accessibility, etc."
While the DOJ confirmed to the Press-Democrat that they had reason to select Sonoma County for federal monitoring, they did not specify a reason, only saying, "The decision on when to send election monitors is based upon the facts and circumstances on the ground with respect to a particular jurisdiction in a particular election." And, "in some places, it may be primarily monitoring for language accessibility under the (Voting Rights Act). In other places, it may be primarily monitoring for disability accessibility under the (Americans with Disabilities Act) and (Help America Vote Act). In still other places, it may include questions about possible discrimination or intimidation."
The department says that its poll watchers — who, as ABC News explains, are mostly lawyers who work for the government — will be on hand to enforce federal statutes and "protect the rights of voters."
"Civil Rights Division personnel will be available all day to receive complaints from the public related to possible violations of the federal voting rights laws by a complaint form on the department’s website https://civilrights.justice.gov/ or by telephone toll-free at 800-253-3931," the department says in its announcement.
Already there was vocal pushback from state officials in Florida, who said the state would send "its own" monitors to polling places and federal lawyers had no place there. Florida Secretary of State and noted 2020 election denier Cord Byrd threw a fit about the federal poll watchers, as Politico reports, and as a result the DOJ appears to have said their monitors will only monitor outside of polling places and will try to "minimize the time we spend at each site."
Similarly, Missouri's Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft rejected the DOJ's move to monitor polling places in Cole County, which in the past has faced accusations of not providing accessible voting machines. Ashcroft said this was the feds "trying to bully a hard working county official."
Photo: Elliott Stallion