Washington – Justice Department officials will monitor Tuesday’s Illinois' primary elections in the Chicago area to ensure minority groups do not face discrimination at the polls.
Announced on Monday by the Obama administration, Federal officials will observe the elections in Cook and Lake Counties for any violations of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits states from discriminating on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group during the electoral process.
There were no allegations of wrongdoing in the days preceding the elections, and the Justice Department said it routinely sends observers to monitor elections' compliance with the Voting Rights Act.
"Each year, the Justice Department deploys hundreds of federal observers from the Office of Personnel Management, as well as departmental staff, to monitor elections across the country," the Justice Department said in a statement.
Cook County includes Chicago and Lake County comprises some of the city's wealthiest suburbs.
The Illinois Republican Party did not return a request for comment on the Justice Department's decision to monitor the primaries.
Targeting voter discrimination has been a priority of Attorney General Eric Holder.
"Protecting the right to vote, ensuring meaningful access, and combating discrimination must be viewed not only as a legal issue but as a moral imperative," Holder said in a speech in South Carolina on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. "And ensuring that every eligible citizen has the right to vote must become our common cause."
Citing concerns about abridging the voting eligibility of minorities, the Justice Department blocked in December and March, respectively, South Carolina's and Texas' new laws that require citizens to present photo identification in order to vote.
Under the Voting Rights Act, South Carolina and Texas are among nine states that must obtain federal approval to make changes in their voting laws due to the states' past racial discrimination.
Republicans have been highly critical of the Justice Department's actions.
"The DOJ has no valid reason for rejecting [Texas'] important law, which requires nothing more extensive than the type of photo identification necessary to receive a library card or board an airplane," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said last week.
Legislation that would require Illinois citizens to present photo IDs in order to vote is currently being debated in the Illinois General Assembly.
But unlike South Carolina and Texas, Illinois is not required to obtain federal pre-clearance for new election laws.