The new guidance document contains the Biden administration’s stance on federal law concerning audits, tagging the round of reviews either done, being done, or proposed “unusual” and “exceedingly rare” while emphasizing that federal law imposes constraints under which counties and states must comply with.
The laws include the Civil Rights Act of 1960 and it mandates the retention of election records for 22 months after a federal election.
It also includes Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlines that no person “shall intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for voting or attempting to vote, or intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for urging or aiding any person to vote or attempt to vote.”
The first makes it the obligation of election officials to keep the security and integrity of the records and safeguard their chain of custody, “so that a complete and uncompromised record of federal elections can be reliably accessed and used in federal law enforcement matters,” the document posited.
“Where election records leave the control of elections officials, the systems for maintaining the security, integrity, and chain of custody of those records can easily be broken. Moreover, where elections records are no longer under the control of elections officials, this can lead to a significant risk of the records being lost, stolen, altered, compromised, or destroyed. This risk is exacerbated if the election records are given to private actors who have neither experience nor expertise in handling such records and who are unfamiliar with the obligations imposed by federal law,” it adds. And this is in a clear reference to the audit being done in Maricopa County, Arizona where the Florida-based Cyber Ninjas, which has no election audit experience has been tapped.
Violators of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act face fines of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to a year for each violation.
“This document sets down a marker that says the Justice Department is concerned about this and we will be following this closely,” the official added.