The Biden Department of Justice (DOJ) is intervening in the election auditing efforts by Republicans in Maricopa County, Arizona, sending a letter Wednesday to the president of the Arizona state Senate suggesting the recount is illegal.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that the DOJ letter raises “the possibility of a clash between state and federal authorities over the audit.”
“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,” wrote Karlan.
Senate Republicans and the GOP-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors disagreed about the accessibility of the ballots; the Senate wanted to perform an audit to address election integrity concerns from constituents, whereas the board argued the ballots, by law, were to be kept secret for 24 months following the election. The judge scolded the parties for failing to come to an agreement on their own but sided with the Senate, suggesting the law in question does not conflict with the subpoenas.
“There is no question that the Senators have the power to issue legislative subpoenas,” Judge Thomason wrote at the time, according to The Associated Press. “The Subpoenas comply with the statutory requirements for legislative subpoenas. The Senate also has broad constitutional power to oversee elections.”
“The Arizona legislature clearly has the power to investigate and examine election reform matters,” the ruling said. “The Subpoenas also do not violate separation of powers principles. Production of the subpoenaed materials would not violate confidentiality laws.”
Karlan also questioned the role of Florida-based Cyber Ninjas, the private contractor tapped to lead the audit, arguing that the company potentially speaking to voters about their vote “could violate federal laws prohibiting voter intimidation,” the Post said.
Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, the audit’s spokesman, reportedly plans to argue that the ballots at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix “are being guarded 24 hours a day and are not in any danger,” the report added. Moreover, Bennett contends “Cyber Ninjas has not yet begun interviewing voters but said the company has pledged to do nothing that would constitute intimidation.”
“This is a matter between the Arizona Senate and Maricopa County,” he emphasized. “We don’t see any grounds for anyone else to intervene.”
Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who sparked the letter from the DOJ, said the AZ audit is a GOP attempt at creating the “playbook” to use “across the country.”
She told the Post that she thinks the Biden DOJ “is at a place where they don’t think they legally can send in observers. But they’re certainly paying attention to what’s going on.”
On Wednesday, the official account for the audit posted to Twitter, “Democrat [Katie Hobbs] 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!”
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!
— Maricopa Arizona Audit (@ArizonaAudit) May 6, 2021