The U.S. Justice Department voiced concern Wednesday that the audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results is likely in violation of federal law. The audit was approved by the Republican-majority Arizona State Senate which said it was necessary to maintain election integrity.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela Karlan wrote in a letter that there are two issues with the audit and election review that likely make the action illegal.

“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 in her letter to Arizona State Senate President Karen Fann (R). Karlan is referencing the fact that the Republican-led State Senate handed confidential election materials over to the private tech firm Cyber Ninjas, likely in violation of election laws.

The second issue in question are plans between the Senate and Cyber Ninjas to “identify voter registrations that did not make sense, and then knock on doors to confirm if valid voters actually lived at the state address,” as said in the State Senate’s contract with Cyber Ninjas. Those who speak to voters will determine “whether the individual voted in the [November] election.” This is in direct violation with voter intimidation laws, Karlan explained.

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“Past experience with similar investigative efforts around the country has raised concerns that they can be directed at minority voters, which potentially can implicate the anti-intimidation prohibitions of the Voting Rights Act,” Karlan noted in her letter. “Such investigative efforts can have a significant intimidating effect on qualified voters that can deter them from seeking to vote in the future.”

The Senate and Cyber Ninjas’ plan to speak to voters was already heavily criticized, most notably by the Brennan Center for Justice which has asked the Department of Justice to send federal monitors to the audit.

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