On Monday, Nov. 7, 2022 — the day before Election Day 2022 — the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would be "monitor[ing] polls in 24 states for compliance with federal voting rights laws." Despite the fact that this sort of monitoring occurs during every election, pro-Trump social media users used the announcement to suggest pro-Biden federal interference is occurring at the polls.
Andrew Torba, the CEO of the social network Gab, posted the press release suggesting the DOJ's public announcement of vote monitoring was suspicious. "Nothing to see here," he wrote sarcastically. "Move along." Benny Johnson, a pro-Trump influencer employed by Turning Point USA, suggested on Twitter that the move was akin to Biden sending the "gestapo" — the political police of the Nazi regime — to polling locations. "No reason given," Johnson falsely claimed, "Just federal agents in polling places."
The reason, as stated in that press release, is to allow the DOJ's Civil Rights Division to enforce "the civil provisions of federal statutes that protect the right to vote, including the Voting Rights Act, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the Help America Vote Act and the Civil Rights Acts." This DOJ division also enforces "federal criminal statutes that prohibit voter intimidation and voter suppression based on race, color, national origin or religion."
These are not "federal agents" or law enforcement officers — they are DOJ attorneys in the civil rights division, as well as lawyers from the Office of Personnel Management. They are the same lawyers that some Trump supporters, including Mike Cernovich, were calling on in 2020 to investigate alleged fraud committed against Trump. Several Democratic groups, including the South Carolina Democratic Party, similarly protested DOJ attorneys at the polls in 2020 due to fears of an anti-Biden bias.
The reality is that federal election monitoring is nothing new or shocking. You can find nearly identical press releases announcing the DOJ's presence prior Election Days going back to at least 2010. Bad actors often cite these DOJ announcements to sow paranoia about the integrity of the voting process by suggesting it is a new or shadowy process. It is, in reality, neither.
Justice Department Again to Monitor Compliance with the Federal Voting Rights Laws on Election Day. 2 Nov. 2020, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-again-monitor-compliance-federal-voting-rights-laws-election-day.
Justice Department Announces On-the-Ground Monitoring at Polling Places in 18 States on Election Day. 3 Nov. 2014, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-announces-ground-monitoring-polling-places-18-states-election-day-0.
Justice Department to Monitor Compliance with Federal Voting Rights Laws on Election Day. 5 Nov. 2018, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-monitor-compliance-federal-voting-rights-laws-election-day.
Justice Department to Monitor Polls in 18 States on Election Day. 29 Oct. 2010, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-monitor-polls-18-states-election-day.
Justice Department to Monitor Polls in 23 States on Election Day. 2 Nov. 2012, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-monitor-polls-23-states-election-day.
Justice Department to Monitor Polls in 24 States for Compliance with Federal Voting Rights Laws. 7 Nov. 2022, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-monitor-polls-24-states-compliance-federal-voting-rights-laws.
Justice Department to Monitor Polls in 28 States on Election Day. 7 Nov. 2016, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-monitor-polls-28-states-election-day.
"Voting Rights." U.S. Office of Personnel Management, https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/oversight-activities/voting-rights/. Accessed 8 Nov. 2022.
"Why the Justice Department Is Sending Monitors to Ensure Voting Rights in 24 States." PBS NewsHour, 7 Nov. 2022, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/why-the-justice-department-is-sending-monitors-to-ensure-voting-rights-in-24-states.