(Adds background, comments from officials)
By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON, April 1 The Justice Department's
civil rights division will monitor local elections in two
counties in Kansas and Nebraska on Tuesday, the department said.
The oversight of polling places will ensure the Voting
Rights Act of 1965 and other federal voting rights laws are
complied with, the Justice Department said in a statement on
The oversight in Nebraska's Douglas County, home to Omaha,
the state's biggest city, follows complaints that poll workers
denied provisional ballots in the November 2012 general election
to voters who failed to produce a voter identification number,
said Adam Morfeld, executive director of the nonpartisan
Nebraskans For Civic Reform.
The ID number is an internal office tracking number and
requiring it violates state and federal laws, he said. The
rejections were mostly in minority areas of Omaha, Morfeld said.
Election officials also shut down about a third of Omaha
polling places before 2012 primaries, largely in minority areas,
he said. Omaha is holding city and school district primaries on
Valerie Stoj, a spokeswoman for the Douglas County Election
Commission, said: "We can always improve our process."
Federal monitors will also oversee municipal and school
elections in Finney County, Kansas.
County Clerk Elsa Ulrich said the oversight was aimed at
guaranteeing that voters had access to Spanish-language election
materials. The Justice Department did similar monitoring in the
county's 2012 general election, she said.
Finney County, in western Kansas and home to big
slaughterhouses, is one of a growing number of U.S. counties
where most residents are from racial or ethnic minorities.
The Justice Department declined to give a reason for
monitoring the counties. The Voting Rights Act bars
discrimination in elections because of race, color or language.
In another sign of contention over voting laws, the
Republican-controlled Arkansas House of Representatives overrode
on Monday the Democratic governor's veto of a bill that would
require voters to show photo identification. The state Senate
overrode the veto last week.
During the 2012 general election, voters complained of
numerous problems in casting ballots, with Florida voters
waiting for hours after polls closed to cast
Before the 2012 election, judges nationwide heard challenges
to new voter identification laws and redrawn voter districts.
The most restrictive moves were blocked before the vote.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson.; Editing by Scott Malone, Leslie
Adler, Cynthia Johnston and Andre Grenon)