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US Justice Department expresses concern about Arizona Senate recount

(Pool Photo)

PHOENIX (AP) — The U.S. Department of Justice expressed concern Wednesday about ballot security and voter intimidation arising from the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate’s unprecedented private recount of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County.

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 Justice Department letter came six days after voting rights groups asked federal officials to intervene or send monitors to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix at the state fairgrounds, where the ballots are being recounted.

“We are very concerned that the auditors are engaged in ongoing and imminent violations of federal voting and election laws,” said the letter sent by the Brennan Center for Justice, the Leadership Conference and Protect Democracy.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Democratic Party Wednesday reached a deal with the Republican-controlled state Senate to ensure that voter and ballot privacy is guaranteed during the recount.

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