The Justice Department on Wednesday issued another warning aimed at states conducting or considering audits of ballots tallied in last year’s election, reminding election authorities that allowing ballots to be mishandled can violate federal law.
“Jurisdictions have to be careful not to let those ballots be defaced or mutilated or lost or destroyed as part of an audit,” said a Justice Department official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. “This document puts down a marker that says the Justice Department is concerned about this.” The new, seven-page Justice Department issuance doesn’t provide any new information, but it does send the message that federal officials are closely scrutinizing the audit efforts.
“Election audits are exceedingly rare. 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,” the memo says. “We are keeping a close eye on what’s going on around the country,” the official said, alternately referring to the reviews as “audits” or “so-called audits.”
The Justice Department already sent the Arizona state Senate a letter in May raising concerns that the procedures for auditing Maricopa County ballots were not adequate to make sure they were preserved under federal law. However, federal officials would not say whether they are planning to take legal action against that state or any other jurisdiction. A requirement in the Civil Rights Act of 1960 calls on election authorities to preserve ballots from federal elections for 22 months.
“We can’t comment on any investigations that might be going on,” the DOJ official said. The Justice Department warned Wednesday that state officials should not assume that it is automatically legal to return to their pre-pandemic policies.
“We didn’t want to sort of give jurisdictions or think jurisdictions should have a safe harbor to say, ‘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 or even if going back to that is, in part, motivated by racial reasons,” the DOJ official said.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: CNN
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