The Justice Department will have “adequate and aggressive enforcement” of both voter fraud laws and of voter intimidation laws this year, said Thomas Perez, the head of the Civil Rights Division, today.
“We enforce both voter intimidation laws and voter fraud laws and we will continue to do so as we have done: carefully, aggressively, and evenhandedly,” Perez said in response to a question from TPMMuckraker. “It is impossible to provide a road map for what constitutes such a case because they’re very much fact-driven. We have criminal statutes related to intimidation, we have civil statutes pertaining to voter intimidation, we have criminal statutes related to fraud.”
Perez said that DOJ will announce a team of federal elections monitors later this week, adding that the Civil Rights Division has partnerships in place with both the FBI, the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Public Integrity Section as well as with the 94 U.S. Attorney’s offices around the county.
“We don’t do one or the other, we do both,” Perez told reporters in response to questions after a briefing about the MOVE Act, which is intended to improve access for military voters. “We will continue to do both.”
The Justice Department continues to receive inquires related to allegations of voter intimidation on a “daily basis” said Perez. “That’s why we have an experienced team of attorneys throughout the division and frankly the department that work on these issues, and so we’ll continue to receive those and take appropriate steps.”
Different parts of the Justice Department handled voter intimidation and voter fraud investigations. Criminal cases of voter fraud would be handled by the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division, while voter intimidation allegations are typically investigated by Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section (though there have been only a handful of civil cases involving voter intimidation filed by DOJ in the past few decades).
DOJ lawyers have already gathered information on allegations of voter intimidation in Harris County, Texas, where a Tea Party group launched an aggressive poll watching effort. Perez confirmed that they were looking into voter intimidation allegations during early voting.
“We’ve obviously received allegations. Again, I can’t get too specific because we have ongoing investigations,” Perez said.
The Justice Department, which kept the name of the Bush-era Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Initiative, said in a press release that “Both protecting the right to vote and combating voter fraud are essential to maintaining the confidence of all Americans in our system of government.”
[Ed. note: this post has been edited since publication.]