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Kansas and Missouri voters can report intimidation at polls directly to U.S. Attorney and FBI

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Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR
Both Kansas and Missouri have laws regarding behavior by campaigns and observers while voting is underway.

The U.S. Department of Justice appoints district election officers to ensure voting is conducted without interference.

A lesser known election fact is that every two years, when voters select federal officials, the U.S. Department of Justice appoints a district election officer for each court district in the country.

Mark Johnson, an attorney who teaches election law at the University of Kansas, describes the DEO's role as "largely a clearinghouse for complaints."

Johnson said that as a member of the Justice Department, the DEO has the FBI available and can send an agent when an incident of harassment, intimidation or discrimination is reported. More likely, though, the DEO will notify local authorities who are usually situated to arrive more quickly.

As to what constitutes intimidation, Johnson said, "it's in the eye of the beholder," noting that a voter approaching a polling place sees someone hanging around who directly looks them up and down and feels bothered by it. That is not a direct confrontation but it can be intimidating to some people.

People can directly report incidents to the DEO or their FBI field office, and when they do, Johnson advised them to report it like they would a crime: "What happened? Do you have a description of the person?" He suggested having the same type of information as you would for reporting a car accident.

According to Johnson, the U.S. Attorney and FBI would investigate to determine if a crime did occur and, if so, proceed with prosecution.

Johnson said the appointment of district election officers helps ensure as accurate a vote count as possible. That way, he said, "people believe the vote is accurate, the elections have credibility."

  • Mark Johnson, cofounder of Dentons Law Firm's Kansas City office, adjunct professor of law of the University of Kansas

The U.S. attorney advises that "in the case of a crime of violence or intimidation, please call 911 immediately and before contacting federal authorities.” Voters in both Kansas and Missouri can reach the local FBI field office at 816-512-8200. While polls are open, Kansas DEO Jared Maag can be reached at 785-295-2850. DEO Alan Simpson for the Western District of Missouri can be reached at 816-426-4125.

Complaints about possible violations of the federal voting rights laws can be made directly to the Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C. by phone at 800-253-3931 or by complaint form at https://civilrights.justice.gov/ .

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