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U.S Justice Department to Monitor Elections in Arizona County

RANCHO BERNARDO, CA - AUGUST 10:  Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks during a visit to the Rancho Bernardo Inn on August 10, 2010 in Rancho Bernardo, California.  Arpaio, who is Sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, gained national attention for using deputies to conduct raids to apprehend illegal immigrants and building large outdoor prison tents to house inmates.  (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Joe Arpaio

RANCHO BERNARDO, CA - AUGUST 10: Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks during a visit to the Rancho Bernardo Inn on August 10, 2010 in Rancho Bernardo, California. Arpaio, who is Sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, gained national attention for using deputies to conduct raids to apprehend illegal immigrants and building large outdoor prison tents to house inmates. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Joe Arpaio  (2010 Getty Images)

The Department of Justice says it will monitor primary elections in Arizona's Maricopa County -- home to controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a lightning rod for the country's contentious immigration debate.  

The department said Monday that federal observers will be dispatched Tuesday to make sure that Maricopa County follows the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. That law prohibits discrimination in the election process on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group.

Observers will watch and record activities during voting hours at polling locations.

Maricopa County officials, especially Sheriff Joe Arpaio, have come under fire for the treatment of Latino residents.

Arpaio is accused in federal court of ordering some patrols not based on reports of crime but rather on letters from people who complained about people with dark skin congregating in an area or speaking Spanish.

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A civil lawsuit also alleges that his office racially profiled Latinos. 

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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