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Justice Department keeps watchful eye

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March 20, 2007

Randolph County --  A series of racially tinged election complaints prompted federal observers to show up in Randolph County to make sure there were no problems Tuesday.

The Georgia Secretary of State's office is also investigation allegations of voting problems in the county.

Voters in Randolph County cast their ballots today like many voters across the state but the mood at polling places in Cuthbert wasn't like everywhere else.

"There were a lot of strange faces," said Cuthbert voter Kent Jones.  

Faces that belonged to Department of Justice employees monitoring polling place activities, again. They watched the polls to ensure that voters were allowed to participate in the election and not denied on the basis of their race.

"We have had complaints that the election wasn't done right and maybe by them being here, maybe that will help it be on the up and up," said Cuthbert voter John Parker. 

Secretary of State Karen Handel's office has an ongoing open investigation involving absentee ballots in Randolph County.

"Mostly during the election time, everybody running, but some of the votes still come up unaccounted for," said Jones. 

Justice Department observers were prompted by their objection to a redistricting last fall that would have moved Board of Education Chairman Henry Cook, who's black, into a district that's overwhelmingly white. In August 2002, The Department of Justice canceled elections over a similar matter.

"I think it's a lot to do with the money situation, and when you get money involved in it you get corruption involved in it and I think it's to do with that,"  said Martin Rice.

"It's just a lot of people are afraid to speak out and if they do speak out, a lot of things people just ignore, and they're not really willing to put a foot forward to let them know what they're doing is not right," said Cuthbert's Renee Coffin. 

Voters hope with federal monitors watching precincts today, that might change.

Randolph County Election Superintendent Sandra Thompson would not allow our cameras in polling locations today, in fact she refused to answer any of our questions, saying she wasn't talking to the media. In 2006, a record was set for the midterm elections when more than 800 federal observers monitored polling locations in 22 states.

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