Federal election monitors are keeping their eyes on voting in Detroit and Hamtramck

DETROIT (WXYZ) - The U.S. Department of Justice is keeping a close eye on elections in two local communities.  The Justice Department sent one monitor to Detroit to observe polling place activities, and another monitor is focusing on language issues at polling places in Hamtramck.

"There aren't armed guards standing over the polling locations -- they have smiles on their faces, they're taking notes, they're observing our process," said Hamtramck Deputy City Clerk August Gitschlag. 

Gitschlag says Election Day 2013 is going smoothly, even with the federal monitor keeping tabs on his polling places. Gitschlag said he welcomes the oversight.  

"I'm fine with it! It makes everyone feel better. Everyone's confident that we have a free and fair election," he said.  "The city of Hamtramck is subject to a federal rule about having Bengali ballots and Bengali language requirements for voting materials. They just came to check to see if we were doing it.  So we showed them everything we have, showed them what we'll do in the future, introduced them to our Bengali poll workers."

The 7 Action News Investigators could clearly see signs in several languages posted at the precincts inside Hamtramck High School. Voters who agreed to speak to us were pleased the election was being watched.

"It's just a good thing they put that in play. We'd rather have a legal vote… instead of some people running scams," said Kenneth Gouze, a Hamtramck resident for nine years.

A spokeswoman for the U. S. Attorney's office in Detroit tells 7 Action News that every year, the Department of Justice deploys staff to observe elections. In Detroit, the NAACP did request Justice Department oversight – but officials say many factors are considered when they decide where to send monitors.

One DOJ monitor is also roving between polling places in the city. Detroit voter Vineta Palmer is glad about that– especially since her mother had problems voting Tuesday morning.

"The polls were on the 2nd floor of the school, and there's no elevators to get up these stairs. And there are a lot of elderly people who live in the area and they couldn't get upstairs, and they had to bring several ballots downstairs to them. I think that's unfortunate because some people may get discouraged and turn around and not vote at all," said Palmer.

U. S. Attorney Barbara McQuade also appointed Assistant U. S. Attorney Pamela Thompson as a District Election Officer. Thompson is the point person in this region for any problems at the polls. She can be reached at 313-226-9770 while the polls are open. 

Complaints about ballot access problems or discrimination can also be made directly to the Civil Rights Division's Voting Section in Washington at 1-800-253-3931.

Visit  http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/vot/  for more information about the Voting Rights Act.

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