The Biden administration on Wednesday expressed concerns about ballot security and voter intimidation as the Arizona state Senate authorizes a private audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County.
In a letter to Republican state Sen. Karen Fann, the Justice Department raised “two issues of potential noncompliance with federal laws” related to the audit.
“The first issue relates to a number of reports suggesting that the ballots, elections systems, and election materials that are the subject of the Maricopa County audit are no longer under the ultimate control of state and local elections officials, are not being adequately safeguarded by contractors at an insecure facility, and are at risk of being lost, stolen, altered, compromised or destroyed,” Justice Department official Pamela Karlan wrote.
Karlan also said the methods used by the group running the audit, Cyber Ninjas, raise concerns about “potential intimidation of voters.”
A statement of work released by Cyber Ninjas said the firm has been working to “identify voter registrations that did not make sense, and then knock on doors to confirm if valid voters actually lived at the stated address,” according to Karlan.
Karlan said the statement of work also indicates that Cyber Ninjas will select at least three precincts in Maricopa County with “a high number of anomalies” in order to “conduct an audit of voting history.”
“Voters may be contacted through a ‘combination of phone calls and physical canvassing’ to ‘collect information of whether the individual voted in the election’ in November 2020,” Karlan wrote.
“We would appreciate your response to the concerns described herein, including advising us of the steps that the Arizona Senate will take to ensure that violations of federal law do not occur,” the letter concluded.
The letter was sent one day after KNXV-TV reported that Cyber Ninjas was requiring volunteers to sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to participate in the audit.
In 2016, former President Donald Trump won Maricopa County (which encompasses the Phoenix metropolitan area) over Democrat Hillary Clinton by approximately 44,500 votes, or 2.8 percent of the vote.
In 2020, President Joe Biden won the county by about 45,100 votes, or 2.2 percent of the vote.
Despite Biden’s victory, Republicans carried every countywide office in Maricopa, save for sheriff (which was held by the incumbent Democrat), including flipping the county recorder and winning the open treasurer seat.
Biden won Arizona overall by 10,457 votes (0.3 percent), the closest margin of any of the swing states that went for him.
Despite numerous allegations of voting irregularities, no court has ruled that fraud affected the results of the 2020 election.
A news release from the Arizona Senate Republicans in late March said the audit will include scanning all 2.1 million paper ballots cast to look for irregularities, conducting a full manual recount, investigating the registration rolls to ensure only eligible voters voted and performing a forensic audit of the electronic voting machines and systems used.
The audit was originally slated to be completed by May 14. However, Arizona Senate audit liaison Ken Bennett, who served as Arizona’s secretary of state from 2009 to 2015, has signaled it may go longer.
Arizona GOP chairwoman Kelli Ward — who is not involved in the audit, but is monitoring its progress — said in a video posted on Twitter on Sunday, “They want to do it, and they want to do it right.”
AZGOP Chairwoman @kellliwardaz gives a quick weekend update on the forensic audit: What got us here and what's to come. #FinishTheAudit #ElectionIntegrity pic.twitter.com/JDEVdm9YxV
— Arizona Republican Party (@AZGOP) May 2, 2021
“This audit is to actually give the Arizona voting public assurance that our elections are secure, fair and honest,” she said. “Who doesn’t want that?”