Jackson, Miss. – United States Attorneys Mike Hurst of the Southern District of Mississippi and William C. Lamar of the Northern District of Mississippi announced today that they have appointed District Election Officers (“DEO”) in their respective Districts to lead the efforts of their offices in connection with the Justice Department’s nationwide Election Day Program for the upcoming November 3, 2020, general election.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ted Cooperstein in the Southern District of Mississippi and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Coleman in the Northern District of Mississippi will be responsible for overseeing their respective District’s handling of complaints of election fraud and voting rights concerns in consultation with Justice Department Headquarters in Washington.
“Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy, and ensuring free and fair elections is one of the most important responsibilities we have as U.S. Attorneys. Every citizen must be able to vote without interference or discrimination and to have their vote counted without it being stolen by fraud. We stand ready to act promptly and aggressively to protect the rights of voters and safeguard the integrity of the election process,” said U.S. Attorney Hurst.
U.S. Attorney Lamar said, “The fairness of the election process hinges on our citizens’ ability to fully and fairly exercise their constitutional right to vote without fear, resistance or undue outside influence. We will work diligently to insure that the right of our citizens to vote and to participate in the electoral process will not be impeded.”
The Department of Justice has an important role in deterring election fraud and discrimination at the polls, and combating these violations whenever and wherever they occur. The Department’s long-standing Election Day Program furthers these goals, and also seeks to ensure public confidence in the integrity of the election process by providing local points of contact within the Department for the public to report possible election fraud and voting rights violations while the polls are open through Election Day.
Federal law protects against such crimes as intimidating or bribing voters, buying and selling votes, impersonating voters, altering vote tallies, stuffing ballot boxes, and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input. It also contains special protections for the rights of voters, and provides that they can vote free from acts that intimidate or harass them. For example, actions of persons designed to interrupt or intimidate voters at polling places by questioning or challenging them, or by photographing or videotaping them, under the pretext that these are actions to uncover illegal voting may violate federal voting rights law. Further, federal law protects the right of voters to mark their own ballot or to be assisted by a person of their choice (where voters need assistance because of disability or illiteracy).
The franchise is the cornerstone of American democracy. We all must ensure that those who are entitled to the franchise exercise it if they choose, and that those who seek to corrupt it are brought to justice. In order to respond to complaints of election fraud or voting rights concerns during the voting period that ends on November 3, 2020, and to ensure that such complaints are directed to the appropriate authorities, AUSA/DEOs Cooperstein and Coleman will be on duty in their respective Districts while the polls are open. Cooperstein can be reached at 601-973-2155 and Coleman can be contacted at 662-816-4304.
In addition, the FBI will have special agents available in each field office and resident agency throughout the country to receive allegations of election fraud and other election abuses on election day. The local FBI field office can be reached by the public at 601-948-5000.
Complaints about possible violations of the federal voting rights laws can be made directly to the Civil Rights Division in Washington, DC by phone at 800-253-3931 or by complaint form at https://civilrights.justice.gov/ .
Please note, however, in the case of a crime of violence or intimidation, please call 911 immediately and before contacting federal authorities. State and local police have primary jurisdiction over polling places, and almost always have faster reaction capacity in an emergency.