The Justice Department on Wednesday issued guidance advising that post-election audits and recently-passed voting laws “risk violating the Civil Rights Act,” in what may be a warning to the controversial review in Arizona.
“The department is concerned that some jurisdictions conducting them may be using, or proposing to use, procedures that risk violating the Civil Rights Act,” the department wrote in the guidance, according to The Hill.
“Where elections records are no longer under the control of elections officials, this can lead to a significant risk of the records being lost, stolen, altered, compromised, or destroyed. This risk is exacerbated if the election records are given to private actors who have neither experience nor expertise in handling such records and who are unfamiliar with the obligations imposed by federal law," it added.
Last May, the department sent a letter to Cyber Ninjas, the group conducting the audit in Arizona, warning them of various issues with their conduct and their plans.
“Federal law prohibits engaging in actions that are likely to deter voters from voting in the future, and that threat of certain kinds of investigations in the past had been held by federal courts to be potentially intimidating to voters,” a Justice Department official said on a call with reporters on Wednesday.
“The reason we're issuing this as 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 elections, 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,” they said.
One official said, “We didn't want to sort of give jurisdictions safe harbor to say, ‘Well because we ran our voting system this way before the pandemic, we're free to go back to that,’ even if going back to that has a racially discriminatory impact,” the official told reporters on a call.
They noted that a new law in Georgia is an “obvious example of that,” with its voter identification requirements and limits on ballot drop box locations.
“What we're just saying to jurisdictions is: you should not assume that if you abandon the practices that have made it easier for people to vote, that abandonment is not going to get scrutiny from the Department of Justice,” the official said.
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