The Madison County Record Oct. 29, 2012, 7:04am

EAST ST. LOUIS - In conjunction with a nationwide election monitoring program, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois Stephen R. Wigginton announced an effort to combat election fraud and voting rights abuses.

"Every citizen must be able to vote without interference or discrimination and to have that vote counted without it being stolen because of fraud," Wigginton said in a press release. "The Department of Justice will act promptly and aggressively to protect the integrity of the election process.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Norman R. Smith will lead local efforts in the Nov. 6 election. Abuses can be reported to Smith by calling 618-628-3700.

The Department will provide local points of contact for the public to report possible election fraud and voting rights violations while the polls are open on election day.

Federal law protects against such crimes as intimidating or bribing voters, buying and selling votes, altering vote tallies, stuffing ballot boxes, and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input. It also contains special protections for the rights of voters and provides that they can vote free from acts that intimidate or harass them.

For example, the release states, actions of persons designed to interrupt or intimidate voters at polling places by questioning or challenging them, or by photographing or videotaping them, under the pretext that these are actions to uncover illegal voting may violate federal voting rights law. Further, federal law protects the right of voters to mark their own ballot or to be assisted by a person of their choice.

In addition to the U.S. Attorney's efforts, the FBI will have special agents available in each field office and resident agency throughout the country to receive allegations of election fraud and other election abuses on election day.

Complaints about ballot access problems or discrimination can be made directly to the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section in Washington at 1-800-253-3931 or (202) 307-2767.

“Ensuring free and fair elections depends in large part on the cooperation of the American electorate," Wigginton said.

"It is imperative that those who have specific information about discrimination or election fraud make that information available immediately to my Office, the FBI, or the Civil Rights Division.”

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