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District Election Officer appointed to oversee fair elections in Western New York

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The U.S. Justice Department has appointed a person to help ensure a free and fair election for voters across the country.

In Western New York, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Bonanno will oversee Election Day activities as District Election Officer.

The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York Trini Ross announced the appointment on Monday. It’s part of the federal Justice Department’s nationwide Election Day Program, which it announced in late October.

“Every citizen must be able to vote without interference or discrimination and to have that vote counted in a fair and free election,” Ross said in a statement. “Similarly, election officials and staff must be able to serve without being subject to unlawful threats of violence. The Department of Justice will always work tirelessly to protect the integrity of the election process.”

Bonanno will oversee the handling of any reports of voting rights violations, threats of violence, and election fraud within western New York. He can be reached by the public at 716-843-5700.

It’s against federal law to threaten election officials, bribe voters, buy or sell votes, or otherwise infringe on voters’ rights.

The FBI will also have special agents available in case of any allegations of election fraud and other election abuses. The local FBI field office can be reached by the public at 716-856-7800.

Complaints about possible violations of the federal voting rights laws can be made directly to the Civil Rights Division in Washington, DC by phone at 800-253-3931 or by complaint form at https://civilrights.justice.gov/ .

Voters can also call the New York state Attorney General’s Election Protection Hotline to troubleshoot and resolve a range of issues, including intimidation or obstruction.

Voters who experience problems can report issues to the Office of the Attorney General by calling the hotline at (866) 390-2992, submitting complaints online, or emailing election.hotline@ag.ny.gov.

However, in the case of a crime of violence or intimidation, the Justice Department advises calling 911 immediately and before contacting federal authorities. State and local police have primary jurisdiction over polling places, and almost always have faster reaction capacity in an emergency, a spokesperson with the department said in a statement.

Noelle E. C. Evans is an education reporter/producer with a background in documentary filmmaking and education.