Political Insider

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John Lewis wants federal vote monitors in Georgia, elsewhere

U.S. Rep. John Lewis called on the Obama administration to appoint election monitors in Georgia, Florida and potentially other states across the South in order to protect against unfair practices at the ballot box.

The Atlanta Democrat and longtime civil rights advocate said he's concerned about recent voter ID laws that have been passed in the three years since the Supreme Court shot down key sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Lewis said new federal protections are needed in order to prevent this fall's election from being "stolen":

"As I move around America, I think that (given) growing concerns about the fairness of the election, it would be fitting for the Department of Justice and others in the administration to look at the possibility of appointing federal observers in several states.”

Lewis specifically called out Fulton County for recent voting rights issues as well as separate reports of people being served legal summonses to prove where they lived and some voters being purged from the rolls:

“There is a deliberate, persistent, systematic effort to make it harder and more difficult for the disabled, students, seniors, minorities, for poor and rural voters to participate in the democratic process. That’s not right, it’s not fair and it’s not just."

Lewis said he has not yet spoken with Attorney General Loretta Lynch or President Barack Obama about his request but he said the protections are needed in Georgia, Ohio, Florida, Arizona and potentially the other southern states that formed the old Confederacy.

With his remarks, Lewis joins a number of voting rights groups who are looking to mobilize independent election monitors and are throwing resources into other tools for reporting issues at the ballot box as they closely watch Georgia for any voting problems. That effort comes after the Justice Department announced a significant reduction in its use of federal election observers, something it said came as a consequence of the 2013 Supreme Court ruling.

Lewis' remarks came at a roundtable on Capitol Hill Wednesday, during which fellow Democrats and representatives from several voting rights groups called on Congress to update the portions of the Voting Rights Act that the high court had struck down in 2013 for being outdated. Those portions of the law required states and localities with histories of racial discrimination to get any proposed changes to voting practices okayed first by  the feds. 

Related coverage: 

Will voting be an issue in Georgia’s presidential election?

National civil rights groups watching Georgia for voting problems

Democrats go it alone on new voting rights push, with 2016 in mind

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.