Armed agents are allowed in ballot-counting locations around the country, Justice Dept. tells prosecutors

New York Times, 2020.11.04

The Justice Department told federal prosecutors in an email early on Wednesday that the law allowed them to send armed federal officers to ballot-counting locations around the country to investigate potential voter fraud, according to three people who described the message.

The email created the specter of the federal government intimidating local election officiald, former officials of President Barack Obama said.

The law “does not prevent armed federal law enforcement persons from responding to, investigate, or prevent federal crimes at closed polling places or at other locations where votes are being counted,” Richard P. Donoghue told prosecutors in an email that he sent around 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

One state election official vowed to resist any federal interference. “We have authority as state officials over anyone trying to enter locations where ballots are being counted,” said Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts. “We will ensure the people decide the outcome.”

A historic number of mail-in ballots has slowed the work of local election officials.

Trump has for months stoked fears about the integrity of the vote, has amplified unfounded conspiracy theories, and has intensified his baseless accusations as the count stretches on long past Election Day. Trump has made reckless claims, and has falsely declared himself the winner of the election. The Trump campaign has filed lawsuits in multiple states to protest vote counts.

Attorney General William Barr, citing 1,700 falsified ballots reported by The Washington Post, claimed without evidence that mail-in ballots would lead to an unprecedented amount of voter fraud.

Vanita Gupta, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama said, “The Justice Department can’t interfere in the vote count, enter polling places or take ballots, even in the course of an investigation.”

Kristy Parker, an official in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division during the administration of President Barack Obama, warned that Justice Department officials arriving at ballot-counting locations for investigatory purposes could disrupt the process.

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