The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division has expressed serious concerns over an audit of the 2020 election in Arizona’s largest county, noting that the firm hired to conduct the review may be taking illegal actions.
In a letter written by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela Karlan, the DOJ worried that 2.1 million ballots from Maricopa County may be compromised due to the lack of security at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum where the audit is taking place.
The letter also raised concerns over whether the audit was targeting voters of color.
“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, according to the Associated Press. “Such investigative efforts can have a significant intimidating effect on qualified voters that can deter them from seeking to vote in the future.”
Several voting rights groups have also expressed concerns with the audit, arguing that the participants “are violating their duty under federal law to retain and preserve ballots in federal elections, which are and have been in danger of being stolen, defaced, or irretrievably damaged.”
Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based cybersecurity company with zero experience in these types of audits, was hired to conduct the audit.
In spite of previous audits showing no evidence of fraud in the 2020 election, the Arizona state legislature ordered the review, which began in April.
The Arizona legislature voted to pay Cyber Ninjas $150,000 for the audit, and is trying to raise $2.8 million more in donations for the effort.
The company is using ultraviolet lights on ballots to search for watermarks, a move that could actually cause the ballots to deteriorate. Cyber Ninjas is searching for ballots made out of bamboo, indicating they are basing their audit on a racist conspiracy theory that alleges ballots were brought in from China in order to help President Joe Biden win.
The company’s founder, Doug Logan, has himself promoted QAnon conspiracy theories, and has shared the #StopTheSteal hashtag on his since-deleted social media accounts, indicating support for the “big lie” theory that falsely claims former President Donald Trump won the election.
Cyber Ninjas has also hired former state lawmaker Anthony Kern to help in the audit. Kern, an ardent Trump supporter, attended the January 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol building where a mob of loyalists to the former president attempted to interfere with the counting of Electoral College votes from last year’s race.
Trump himself is reportedly watching the outcome of the problematic audit. “Watch Arizona, some very interesting things are happening in Arizona,” Trump said in recorded comments to a group at Mar-a-Lago. “Let’s see what they find, I wouldn’t be surprised if they found thousands and thousands and thousands of votes.”