WASHINGTON – The U.S. Justice Department is warning states which might be conducting or contemplating audits of the 2020 election that they could be utilizing procedures that violate federal protections towards voter intimidation and different statutes.
The warning comes as Arizona Republicans proceed a controversial review of the 2020 vote depend within the state’s largest county whereas Republican officers in 4 different battleground states the place former President Donald Trump lost to President Joe Biden are pursuing related efforts.
“Election audits are exceedingly rare,” the Justice Department stated in new steerage on post-election audits issued on Wednesday. “But the Department is concerned that some jurisdictions conducting them may be using, or proposing to use, procedures that risk violating the Civil Rights Act.”
Post-election critiques of ballots have lengthy been half of election administration that’s dealt with by election officers. But audits of the 2020 election drawing the Justice Department’s consideration are unofficial and are being pushed by Republican allies of Trump who allege that the election was marred by widespread fraud, costing Trump his reelection.
In addition to Arizona, Republicans in 4 different states that Trump lost – Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – have been urgent forward with efforts to review the 2020 election outcomes, in response to the Brennan Center for Justice.
“I think the reason we’re issuing this guidance is to tell jurisdictions generally that we are concerned that if they’re going to conduct these audits, so-called audits of the past election, they have to comply with federal law and warning them that they can’t conduct these audits in a way that is going to intimidate voters,” a Justice Department official stated.
In its steerage doc, the division outlined two broad issues about post-election audits. The first issues the preservation of election information. Under federal legislation, election officers are required to maintain voting information for 22 months after an election.
“This means that jurisdictions have to be careful not to let those ballots be defaced or mutilated or lost or destroyed as part of an audit,” the Justice Department official stated throughout a press name with reporters. The official spoke on situation of anonymity.
The Justice Department’s second concern pertains to voter intimidation. Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, it’s unlawful to intimidate voters or these meaning to vote. Examples of voter intimidation cited within the doc embody taking down the license plate numbers of people attending voter registration conferences.
“If a jurisdiction is going to conduct one of these audits it has to do so in a way that’s not going to intimidate voters and deter them from voting in future elections,” the official stated.
The steerage echoes a warning the Justice Department gave to Arizona Republicans about their post-election audit.
In a letter to a prime Republican official, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela Karlan raised questions on plans by GOP-hired auditors to go door to door “to confirm if valid voters actually lived at the stated address.” The deliberate canvassing “raises concerns regarding potential intimidation of voters” in violation of federal legislation, the letter acknowledged.
In response, the Republicans dropped their deliberate canvassing. While the Justice Department hasn’t issued related letters to different states, “we’re keeping a close eye on what’s going on around the country,” the official stated.
In Pennsylvania, a state Trump lost by greater than 80,000 votes, state lawmaker Doug Mastriano this month launched what he known as a “forensic investigation” of the 2020 election, requesting data from three counties. Democrats have questioned the legality of the audit.
In Wisconsin, one other state Trump lost, Rep. Janel Brandtjen, chair of the Wisconsin State Assembly elections committee, introduced on Monday that her committee will request further data to make sure a “comprehensive, forensic examination” of 2020 votes.