U.S. Justice Department outlines concerns about Arizona election audit

The United States Dept. of Justice has asked Arizona's Senate president to respond to concerns about the audit of the Maricopa County election results, and their questions revolve around whether or not federal law is being violated.

Following a letter sent to Senate President Karen Fann from the DOJ, Arizona's Secretary of State Katie Hobbs revealed in a news conference today that she had a meeting with the federal agency along with other secretaries of state across the country.

"There’s interest in this across the country because this is potentially precedent setting," Hobbs said.

Some of those concerns included ballot security and possible voter intimidation via a planned canvassing of voters from the auditors.

The Senate's audit liaison, Ken Bennett, responded to the concerns on Thursday, saying the security concerns were unfounded.

"Nobody is in the building that shouldn't be in the building," Bennett said. "If I have anything to do with it, there won’t be any voter intimidation."

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey was asked about the audit and letter Thursday afternoon.

"Why don’t we wait until the findings come out?" Ducey said. "That’s a question for the Senate President. It wasn’t addressed to me."

In a letter to GOP Senate President Karen Fann, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said the Senate’s farming out of 2.1 million ballots from the state’s most populous county to a contractor may run afoul of federal law requiring ballots to remain in the control of elections officials for 22 months.

And Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan said that the Senate contractor’s plans to directly contact voters could amount to illegal voter intimidation.

"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 wrote. "Such investigative efforts can have a significant intimidating effect on qualified voters that can deter them from seeking to vote in the future."

Karlan wants Fann to lay out how the Senate and its contractors will ensure federal laws are followed. She pointed to news reports showing lax security at the former basketball arena where the ballots are being recounted by hand.

Fann said Senate attorneys were working on a response she promised to share when it was completed.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.

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