DOJ dispatches federal monitors to Milwaukee for Tuesday election

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Washington (CNN) — The Justice Department Monday dispatched federal observers to Milwaukee to monitor the closely-watched recall election of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The Voting Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division said Milwaukee is among specific voting locations required to provide assistance to Spanish speaking citizens.

The Justice Department indicated it will also send federal observers to assist Spanish-speaking voters Tuesday in elections in Fresno and Riverside Counties in California.

Observers will also ensure language requirements are met for Native Americans in Cibola and Sandoval Counties in New Mexico. And federal observers have been sent to Alameda County, California, to ensure adequate language assistance to Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino and Hispanic voters.

The Justice Department declined to say how many monitors have been sent to these locations, but from past practice the number is likely in the dozens. In prior general elections, the Justice Department has sent as many as one thousand federal observers and civil rights attorneys to coordinate federal activities and work with local elections officials.

Earlier story:

Embattled Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, an anti-union darling of the tea party and other fiscal conservatives, faces off Tuesday against Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in a high-stakes recall election that politicos say could foreshadow the contentious November general contest.

The fight to recall Walker after only an 18-month tenure in office speaks to some in the blue-leaning state’s frustration over Republican-led efforts to keep unions in check. Walker and his GOP colleagues in the state legislature voted last January to restrict public employee unions’ collective bargaining rights and keep their raises — except those of police and firefighters — at inflation rates. Protests and a union backlash ensued along with efforts to recall Walker from office.

Walker and his supporters argue that unions are making it difficult to take the steps needed to shrink the state’s mushrooming debt. Unions and their supporters counter that collective bargaining has helped ensure safe working conditions, fair treatment and wages and adequate health care.

The deeply polarized Wisconsin recall race also pits Democrats and their Big Labor allies against Republicans and impassioned tea party supporters in a multi-million dollar showdown that’s drawn such political stars as former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, into the fray.

A loss for either party in the close race could start a domino effect in swing states.

As CNN’s Candy Crowley pointed out Monday in an analysis: If Walker sidesteps a recall, it would speak to conservative’s grassroots power, the waning power of unions — which typically ally with Democrats — and could further Romney’s efforts in the state.

A Walker recall would mean conservatives were roundly chastised, the tea party suffered a blow and Obama has strong footing in Wisconsin.

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