The U.S. Department of Justice will be sending sending poll watchers to Alameda and Riverside counties today to ensure California's long-awaited Election Day goes smoothly – a routine move in a decidedly not-routine election year already replete with allegations of voter fraud.
Voter intimidation has gotten more attention this election cycle with news that various tea party groups plan to stake out polling places, ostensibly in an grass-roots effort to curtail voter fraud.
"We are in the polling location just to let the bad guys know ... when we have a presence there, that discourages them from coming to the polling booth and committing voter fraud," the man says.
Progressive groups argue that the "bad guys" in question are largely minorities, who can be intimidated into not voting by the presence of poll watchers. Tensions have most recently flared in Houston, where Democratic groups filed numerous complaints against Republican poll watchers alleging intimidation. The complaints were dismissed.
Monitoring voters and challenging suspect ballots can be crucial for both sides in tight elections. Contests such as Al Franken's senate election in 2008 and the 2000 presidential recount have long been dogged by allegations of voter fraud, which provided ample fodder for lawsuits and challenges.
Allegations of absentee voter fraud have already arisen in Bakersfield, and Republicans this week have accused Secretary of State Debra Bowen of "blatant electioneering," and filed a formal complaint with Attorney General Jerry Brown – also the Democratic candidate for governor – demanding an investigation.
Stay tuned tomorrow. It should be interesting.