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Presidential Election

DOJ issues guidance on so-called election 'audits'

ABC News
ABC News
 2021-07-28

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The Justice Department on Wednesday released guidance intended to caution states embarking on so-called post-election 'audits' of vote counts for the 2020 presidential election that they must not run afoul of federal voting laws.

The guidance, previously previewed last month by Attorney General Merrick Garland in his policy address on voting rights, outlines federal statutes that the department says elections officials must adhere to during such "audits," such as preserving all federal elections materials and making sure they're not tampered with.

"This document sets down a marker that says the Justice Department is concerned about this, and we will be following this closely," a DOJ official told reporters on a media conference call Wednesday.

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Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images, FILE - PHOTO: Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks about voting rights legislation at a news conference at the Department of Justice on June 25, 2021, in Washington.

The guidance echoes a warning sent by the department back in May to the Republican-run audit in Arizona, warning officials there that all election records must be preserved and expressing concern about the state handing over election materials to the private contractor group Cyber Ninjas.

MORE: Arizona 'audit' becomes far-right campaign stop, fuels conspiracy that election can be overturned

After the department's letter, Arizona officials backed off of a plan to send contractors from the group to visit homes in the state's largest county of Maricopa to ask voters whether or not they had cast ballots. The Wednesday guidance includes a warning that officials who seek to embark on such "audits" can't do so in a way that will intimidate voters.

DOJ officials on Wednesday declined to provide any update on the department's review of the Arizona "audit." But the guidance comes as Republicans in several other states have expressed interest or are already moving forward with similarly partisan reviews of the 2020 vote count in certain jurisdictions -- despite lacking any evidence of widespread fraud.

The department also issued separate guidance Wednesday that outlines the range of federal laws protecting voting by different methods.

MORE: Election 'audits' let GOP replay 2020 grievances: The Note

"It's responsive to the fact that more Americans than ever are voting, not on Election Day in person in a polling place, but that are voting at voting centers or voting early or voting by mail," one official said.

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The Republic via USA Today Network, FILE - PHOTO: Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett watches as Maricopa County ballots from the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors hired by the Arizona Senate at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, April 30, 2021.

An official said that the second set of guidance should be a note of caution to states that might be looking to roll back policies that expanded access to voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. The official gave the example of the election bill passed this year by Republicans in Georgia that implemented voting restrictions the department is now suing over, alleging it unlawfully targets minority communities.

"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," an official said.

Comments / 10

Allen Barfield
07-28

the audit is to actually find the fraud. if evidence was already being shown, an audit would not be necessary. however, numbers don't add up especially when they have more votes than voters, which in itself is evidence of fraud

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William Pounds
07-29

he should have addressed this issue with demacrats who tried withholding election documents and voting machines . He also should have addressed the illegal activity during the election by demacrats. look how many got caught for election fraud .

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William Pounds
07-29

with all the illegal activity that went on and the fraudulent voter count that took place we should have another election right away . some demacrats did get caught in some states for election fraud .

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