Latino civic engagement group to press feds for undisrupted elections

FILE: A woman casts her vote at a polling place inside Winfield Elementary School's gym in Windsor Mill, Maryland.
FILE: A woman casts her vote at a polling place inside Winfield Elementary School's gym in Windsor Mill, Maryland.
Patrick Semansky/AP

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The nation's leading Latino civic engagement organization plans to press the federal Department of Justice this week to help ensure disruption-free voting on election day.

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the nonpartisan National Association of Latino Elected Officials Educational Fund headquartered in Los Angeles, said he is concerned about possible violence and other problems at the polls as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump steps up claims that a vote against him will be "rigged."

Trump, whose poll numbers have been slipping, is charging that Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and media organizations are collaborating to rob him of a victory in the Nov. 8 election.

Trump has not presented evidence to support his allegations. But he has encouraged his supporters to "monitor" the polls themselves, which some fear could lead to intimidation of voters, especially non-white voters.

“What we are most concerned about is anybody who takes it upon themselves to be their own poll watchers, and to try to determine who is and who is not eligible to vote simply because of their appearance," said Vargas.

Trump also said recently the U.S. was letting people "pour into the country" so they could vote, again providing no substantiation.

At least one Trump supporter in Ohio recently told the Boston Globe that he planned be at polling places. “I’ll look for . . . well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them."

Violence between Trump supporters and detractors has already broken out on several occasions during the campaign, including in Costa Mesa in April.

Vargas said his group is planning to send a letter to the federal Justice Department asking that officials be on the lookout for attempts to disrupt voting at polling places, and to intervene if necessary. The Justice Department has scaled back its use of federal poll observers following a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

In spite of Trump's claims, the voting system is not easy to rig, California election officials told KPCC. There is strict oversight by state officials and poll workers, said Neal Kelley, Orange County's registrar of voters.

"It's a secure system," Kelley said. "I'm very confident in the way that elections are conducted in California...when you look at the efforts that are put into ensuring the vote is accurate and fair, there is a lot of hard work that is done."

If you're preparing to cast your ballot, KPCC has helpful information on candidates and ballot measure on its Voter Game Plan page and its Voter's Edge Voter Guide.