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Poll Observers May Watch O.C. Race


The federal government is considering sending poll observers to a hotly contested central Orange County congressional district to oversee voting Nov. 3.

A U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman said officials may monitor election day activities in the 46th Congressional District, where Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) and Republican challenger Robert K. Dornan face each other on the ballot.

Justice spokeswoman Christine DiBartolo in Washington would not provide details until the decision is made.

The department, however, is expected to send monitors, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, the local arm of the department.

Orange County Registrar Rosalyn Lever said a Justice Department attorney called her this week to discuss sending a voting rights attorney to Orange County for the election.

Federal observers have been dispatched throughout the country since passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Their role is to make sure that voters aren't intimidated and that proper voting materials and assistance are available.

The county's central core has been the site of numerous complaints of intimidation of minority voters since 1988.

That year, a civil rights lawsuit was filed against the Orange County Republican Party and Assembly candidate Curt Pringle for posting uniformed security guards at 20 predominately Latino precincts in Santa Ana. Pringle and the county GOP settled the suit for $400,000.

The League of United Latin American Citizens has asked federal officials since 1991 to monitor election day activities in Orange County, said Arturo Montez, the group's state voting rights chairman.

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