Justice Department to monitor five Florida counties during Tuesday primary

Published Aug. 14, 2012

Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice will monitor today's primaries in five Florida counties — Collier, Hendry, Lee, Osceola and Polk — to make sure that elections officials there will provide language assistance in Spanish.

The DOJ announced the monitoring Monday in a short news release, which also mentioned that the city of Milwaukee, Wis., would be monitored as well. It's not certain if the oversight was regular procedure or sparked by complaints. Each year, the DOJ deploys hundreds of federal observers to monitor elections across the nation.

But the department doesn't comment as to how jurisdictions are chosen for monitoring, said Mitchell Rivard, a DOJ spokesman.

The list of Florida counties include two of five — Collier and Hendry — that are subject to federal pre-clearance of changes in voting procedures.

In 1972, those counties used English language ballots for non-English speaking voters, which was classified as a documented case of discrimination based on race or language. But the other three counties requiring pre-clearance — Hardee, Monroe and Hillsborough — were not included on the list of counties that will be monitored today.

"We haven't been notified," said Travis Abercrombie, spokesman for the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office.

Despite recent tension between the DOJ and Florida's efforts to purge voter rolls of suspected noncitizens, the monitoring appears to be unrelated. In July, the DOJ sued Florida for the purge, alleging it ignored a requirement that it get approval first.

Chris Cate, a spokesman for the Florida Division of Elections, said he thinks the monitoring is routine, but said he would find out more later today.