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People are knocking on the doors of Yavapai County residents and asking how they voted in the last election, while falsely claiming to represent the county recorder’s office, sheriff’s office officials said.

The mysterious door-to-door survey, which has alarmed local officials, comes after the U.S. Department of Justice warned the Arizona Senate against plans to canvass voters’ homes as part of an unprecedented review of November’s election. Meanwhile, backers of the Senate’s audit have organized their own such door-to-door efforts.

Yavapai County Recorder Leslie Hoffman said she did not know if the people knocking on doors around Prescott are working on behalf of a political organization, but raised concerns that information residents provide could result in identity theft.

“I don’t want some of our more vulnerable residents giving information and thinking they’re giving it to the recorder’s office,” she said.

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Hoffman said local officials had received reports of two incidents last week in which people claiming to be from her office asked voters if they voted in the last election and who they voted for. In one case, a pair of people knocked on the door of a local resident and sought to verify the names of people living in the home. But the duo declined to produce any identification when asked, including anything verifying connection to the recorder’s office, Hoffman said.

The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office told residents the recorder would never send anyone to a residence asking survey questions or asking voters for personal information, and asked anyone approached in a similar fashion to contact local law enforcement.

Senate auditors planned similar effort

The state Senate previously planned to dispatch canvassers to the doors of Maricopa County voters and ask if those voters cast a ballot in the last election.

The Senate’s contract with Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based firm it hired to manage its ongoing audit of election results, said a “registration and votes cast team” has already worked with several people “in order to statistically identify voter registrations that did not make sense, and then knock on doors to confirm if valid voters actually lived at the stated address.”

The company’s CEO said canvassers would not ask voters which candidates they supported in the last election, however.

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As the hand recount of 2.1 million Arizona ballots wraps up, Republic reporter Jen Fifield answers questions on what auditors are focused on and what to expect next. Arizona Republic

In a letter on May 5, an attorney from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division warned that such canvassing could violate federal law.

“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,” principal deputy assistant attorney general Pamela Karlan wrote. “Such investigative efforts can have a significant intimidating effect on qualified voters that can deter them from seeking to vote in the future.”

Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, replied to the letter by saying the plans to visit some voters had been dropped, at least temporarily.

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While those plans appeared isolated to Maricopa County, similar efforts may extend to other parts of the state.

Liz Harris, a Republican who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the state House of Representatives last year, has said she organized a group of canvassers to go door to door for months to check voter registration data.

Harris at first told The Arizona Republic that she was involved in the Senate’s audit, but then said she couldn’t say if she was.

“I pretty much know what’s happening,” she said in a video to social media on Monday addressing the Yavapai County sheriff’s advisory about the canvassing.

“There are canvassers, some within the group I’m heading up and some outside the group,” she added.

But Harris denied that anyone involved impersonated employees of the Yavapai County Recorder’s Office or asked residents which candidates they supported.

Contact Andrew Oxford at andrew.oxford@arizonarepublic.com or on Twitter at @andrewboxford.

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