The U.S Department of Justice issued an alert on July 28 to states conducting or planning to conduct audits of the 2020 presidential election results, warning that states may be violating federal law.
The document published by the DOJ claims that federal law provides “constraints with which every jurisdiction must comply” with regard to the “unusual” audits that continue to take place nationwide.
“In recent months, in a number of jurisdictions around the United States, an unusual second round of examinations have been conducted or proposed. These examinations would look at certain ballots, election records, and election systems used to conduct elections in 2020. These examinations, sometimes referred to as ‘audits,’ are governed, in the ﬁrst instance, by state law. In some circumstances, the proposed examinations may comply with state law; in others, they will not. But regardless of the relevant state law, federal law imposes additional constraints with which every jurisdiction must comply.”
The document states that the laws each state must comply with include the Civil Rights Act of 1960 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1960, election officials are mandated to keep voting records up to 22 months after an election, the DOJ said.
“Section 301 of the Act requires state and local election ofﬁcials to ‘retain and preserve’ all records relating to any ‘act requisite to voting’ for twenty-two months after the conduct of ‘any general, special, or primary election’ at which citizens vote for ‘President, Vice President, presidential elector, Member of the Senate, [or] Member of the House of Representatives,'” the text states.
During a press briefing, a Justice Department official added that “jurisdictions have to be careful not to let those ballots be defaced or mutilated or lost or destroyed as part of an audit,” according to VOA News.
The second law election audits must comply with is the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which relates to voter intimidation. The legislation deems it illegal to intimidate voters or citizens attempting to vote.
“No person, whether acting under color of law or otherwise, shall intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for voting or attempting to vote, or intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for urging or aiding any person to vote or attempt to vote,” the law states.
An official warned during the DOJ press briefing that, “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 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 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 DOJ official said. “This document sets down a marker that says the Justice Department is concerned about this, and we will be following this closely.”
The ongoing election audit in Arizona’s Maricopa County has motivated lawmakers from numerous states, including Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Wisconsin, to conduct similar reviews of the 2020 election results in order to ensure election integrity.