In recent weeks, by order of the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate, a team of private contractors has been conducting an audit of roughly 2.1 million ballots and related election equipment from the 2020 election in Maricopa County.
Democrats have been adamantly opposed to the effort before it even officially began, and now, it appears that President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) is threatening to intervene in the comprehensive audit effort, PJ Media reported.
At issue are two separate allegations of potential violations of federal law: a failure to keep all election-related documents and materials secure for at least 22 months following an election, as well as the possibility that the contractors, by way of interviews, could intimidate said voters into not casting ballots in the future.
Potential civil rights violations?
According to The Washington Post, the issue arose following complaints laid out by Democratic observers of the audit process, including Arizona’s Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who has worked hard but unsuccessfully in her attempts to try and block — and now stop — the audit from starting or ultimately concluding.
Those complaints have seemingly garnered the attention of Pamela Karlan, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in charge of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
On May 5, Karlan sent a letter to Arizona state Senate President Karen Fann (R) that outlined the DOJ’s concerns regarding the audit and cited the potential violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1960.
“We have a concern that Maricopa County election records, which are required by federal law to be retained and preserved, are no longer under the ultimate control of elections officials, are not being adequately safeguarded by contractors, and are at risk of damage or loss,” Karlan wrote.
Karlan also expressed concerns over the stated plans of the private contractors conducting the audit, led by Florida-based CyberNinjas, to interview some voters to confirm whether they actually voted in the election or not, which Karlan claimed could constitute voter intimidation, a practice prohibited by federal law.
Grounds for intervention?
In response to the DOJ’s threats of intervening, former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, the state Senate’s liaison overseeing the audit, told The Post that there was no need for federal involvement, that adequate measures had been taken to ensure the security of all materials, and that while the voter interviews had yet to occur, he had been assured that it would not be done in an intimidating fashion.
“This is a matter between the Arizona Senate and Maricopa County,” Bennett said. “We don’t see any grounds for anyone else to intervene.” He later added that the complaints from Hobbs were “totally unfounded” and were “simply reexpressions of her opposition to the audit from the very beginning.”
A similar message came from the official Twitter account of the Maricopa County audit, which read: “Democrat SoS @katiehobbs who does not support election audits or transparency now wants the Federal Government to get involved in the Arizona Senate forensic audit. Arizona has the authority to conduct this audit without interference from the Feds!”
It remains unclear when or even if the audit will be completed, especially if Biden’s DOJ follows through on its threats and attempts to intervene in the effort, which would most likely happen through a federal lawsuit demanding the audit cease or be constrained with additional oversight and security requirements.