Twenty-three federal observers were assigned Tuesday to polling places in San Juan County to ensure that citizens' voting rights are safeguarded.

Nationwide, 301 federal observers were on duty in 12 counties in six states. Assistant Attorney General William Bradford Reynolds, who heads the Civil Rights Division, said the effort was particularly aimed at protecting voting rights of blacks, Hispanics and American Indians.The observers were assigned according to provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting procedures that discriminate because of race, color or language.

"This is an all-out effort to ensure that the electoral process is free of racial and ethnic discrimination," Reynolds said.

Citizens may report possible violations of federal civil rights voting laws to complaint examiners. Collect calls in Utah may be made to 678-3226.