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Election Experts Send Letter to the Department of Justice on Arizona Audits

Election experts wrote a letter to Chris Herren, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, requesting that he deploy federal monitors to the location of the Arizona audit.

Published: April 29, 2021

We write to request that you deploy federal monitors to the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where agents of the Arizona Senate are reviewing ballots as part of a so-called audit of votes cast for federal office in the 2020 general election in Maricopa County. This work is being conducted by Cyber Ninjas, a firm retained by the state senate, along with its subcontractors, as part of a review of election results, or “audit,” commissioned by the state senate. It includes the handling and review of approximately 2.1 million ballots and other election materials, which a court compelled Maricopa County election officials to transfer into the senate’s custody after the senate issued a subpoena for them.

We are very concerned that the auditors are engaged in ongoing and imminent violations of federal voting and election laws. Specifically, we believe that the senate and its agents, including Cyber Ninjas, are violating their duty under federal law to retain and preserve ballots cast in a federal election, which are and have been in danger of being stolen, defaced, or irretrievably damaged. They failed to ensure the physical security of ballots by keeping doors unlocked and allowing unauthorized persons to access the ballot storage facility. They also risk compromising the integrity of the ballots themselves, using materials and technologies that will cause the ballot paper and marks to deteriorate, such as holding ballots to ultra-violet light without gloves. And, by restricting access to the audit by nonpartisan observers, election administrators and voting machine experts, they are failing to ensure that the audit is transparent.

Additionally, we are concerned that Cyber Ninjas, the senate, and its agents are preparing to engage in conduct that will constitute unlawful voter intimidation in violation of the Voting Rights Act and other federal laws. The audit procedures described in the Cyber Ninjas’ Audit Scope of Work authorize deploying agents to “physically canvass” Maricopa County voters and “collect information” related to voter history. Voter intimidation can take many forms. Regardless of the fact that these actions will occur after the 2020 Election, they constitute intimidation because they seek to stoke fear amongst Arizonans of exercising their fundamental right to vote in future elections. 

The Department of Justice has authority to monitor this process pursuant to Section 10302 of Title 52 of the United States Code. Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the Department has “regularly monitored elections in the field” and “around the country throughout every year to protect the rights of all voters.” Department monitoring is critical to the protection of civil rights and the enforcement of voting rights and election laws. Election monitors “have a unique ability to help deter wrongdoing, defuse tension, promote compliance with the law and bolster public confidence in the electoral process.” The need is especially urgent here, as there are ongoing and imminent violations of federal election laws in Arizona, and these violations may be used to justify further intrusions on Arizonans’ voting rights.

For the reasons explained above, we request that you send federal monitors as soon as practicable to the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum located at 1826 W McDowell Road, Phoenix, Arizona. Ballots that are protected under federal law are in imminent danger of being stolen, defaced, or irretrievably damaged, and Arizona citizens are in imminent danger of being subject to unlawful voter intimidation as a result of flawed audit procedures.