After some complaints were filed with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding Riverside County’s lack of Spanish-speaking poll workers, the county’s Registrar of Voters stepped up – and the impact will be felt on Election Day.
On Friday the DOJ announced that Riverside County is one of 17 jurisdictions nationwide that will have federal observers from its Civil Rights Division monitoring polling place activities.
The idea is to ensure there are no irregularities and that all voters have access to ballot boxes on Election Day.
The only other California jurisdiction on the list of 17 was Alameda County.
DOJ personnel are also expected to monitor an additional 34 jurisdictions nationwide, but none are in California.
According to Art Tinoco, chief deputy director for the Riverside County Registrar of Voters, his department was not given the names of the groups that filed complaints.
“The Department of Justice did not disclose that information to us,” Tinoco said.
DOJ spokeswoman Dena Iverson declined to release the specific information to Patch.
The process of improving access to the ballot box in Riverside County began in January 2010 when the county entered into an agreement with the DOJ, promising it would meet 26 standards to ensure all citizens have access during federal elections, Tinoco said.
Among the 26 conditions was ensuring that bilingual poll workers are available at polling places that serve a high number of registered voters with Spanish surnames, Tinoco said. In total, the county had to bring on 1,095 bilingual poll workers for this Tuesday’s election or face a costly legal challenge from the DOJ, Tinoco explained.
At press time, the county is short by 13 bilingual poll workers, all in Southwest Riverside County, Tinoco said.
“There are a lot of families in that area and they work,” he said. “They don’t have time to volunteer.”
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Tinoco stressed that any non-English-speaking registered voter should feel comfortable coming to the polls on Tuesday.
“If there’s anyone out there who needs assistance at the polls, we are there to help,” he said.
In the days leading up to and throughout Election Day, Civil Rights Division staff members will be available by telephone to receive complaints related to possible violations of the federal voting rights laws (toll free 1-800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767 or TTY 1-877-267-8971). In addition, individuals may also report such complaints by fax to 202-307-3961, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org and by a complaint form on the department’s website: www.justice.gov/crt/about/vote/.