U.S. Justice Department watching for voting irregularities in Florida

Early voting is currently underway in South Florida.
Early voting is currently underway in South Florida. MIAMI HERALD

The U.S. Justice Department is keeping a watchful eye on Florida for possible voting rights abuses in the last days of a close, hard-fought battle between Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist.

South Florida’s top federal prosecutor on Thursday urged voters to report suspected cases of fraud or voting rights abuses.

“Every citizen must be able to vote without interference or discrimination and to have that vote counted without it being stolen because of fraud,” said Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer in a statement. “The Department of Justice will act promptly and aggressively to protect the integrity of the election process.”

Ferrer said he has designated Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly L. Selmore to be a District Election Officer in the Southern District of Florida, chiefly responsible for investigating any complaints. Selmore can be reached at (305) 961-9001. The Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division can be reached at 800-253-3931.

Ferrer said FBI agents across the country will investigate any voting-related complaints. He said it’s a crime for anyone to intimidate a voter, to mark a ballot against a voter’s wishes or to question or photograph voters at polling places under the pretext of uncovering violations of the voting rights laws.

In August, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent a strongly-worded letter to Gov. Scott that said the Justice Department will be “carefully monitoring” Florida voting.

At the time, Scott called Holder’s letter “pure politics” and said it was “just them trying to help Charlie Crist.”

Scott’s campaign issued a statement Wednesday that said: “We want 100 percent voter participation and zero percent fraud.”

For nearly a month, Florida voters have been casting ballots with few reported problems.

Scott and Crist are both aggressively promoting early voting. Scott is in the second week of a two-week bus tour and Crist is traveling across the state. Early voting ends Sunday.

Democrats will make a final push Sunday to get as many black voters as possible to the polls after church, a program called “Souls to the Polls.”

Efforts to protect voters from possible civil rights violations are also underway by U.S. attorneys in North and Central Florida.

Miami Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this report.

Contact Miami Herald reporter Jay Weaver at jweaver@MiamiHerald.com.

Who to call about possible federal voting rights violations

Complaints about possible violations of the federal voting rights laws can be made directly to the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section in Washington by phone at 1-800-253-3931 or (202) 307-2767, by fax at (202) 307-3961, by email to voting.section@usdoj.gov or by complaint form at http://www.justice.gov/crt/complaint/votintake/index.php. In South Florida, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly L. Selmore has been designated a District Election Officer. Selmore can be reached at (305) 961-9001.

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