The Department of Justice on Wednesday released guidance for states that are conducting post-election audits.
“The guidances issued today describe certain federal laws that help ensure free, fair, and secure elections,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “Where violations of such laws occur, the Justice Department will not hesitate to act.”
“I think the reason we’re issuing this as guidance is to tell jurisdictions generally that we are concerned that if they’re going to conduct these audits, they have to comply with federal law,” an official with the Justice Department told reporters during a media conference call on Wednesday.
The first guidance document addresses efforts by some states to permanently adopt their COVID-19 pandemic voting modifications, and by other states to bar continued use of those practices, or to impose additional restrictions on voting by mail or early voting.
The second guidance document provides information on how states must comply with federal law when preserving and retaining election records and the criminal penalties associated with the willful failure to comply with those requirements.
This guidance document also details the statutes that prohibit the intimidation of voters and the department’s commitment to act if any person engages in actions that violate the law.
“This document sets down a marker that says the Justice Department is concerned about this, and we will be following closely,” an official said.
States that are doing audits must follow federal voting laws and cannot intimidate voters.
“It’s responsive to the fact that more Americans than ever are voting, not on Election Day in person in a polling place, but that are voting at voting centers or voting early or voting by mail,” an official said.
“You should not assume that if you abandon the practices that have made it easier for people to vote, that abandonment is not going to get scrutiny from the Department of Justice,” the official said.
“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the right to vote for all Americans and ensuring states are complying with federal voting laws,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Whether through litigation or the issuance of official guidance, we are using every tool in our arsenal to ensure that all eligible citizens can exercise their right to vote free from intimidation, and have their ballots counted.”