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Ashcroft calls state audit a political attack


State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick released a report giving the Missouri Secretary of State's Office a "fair" rating -- a downgrade from the office's "good" rating.

The report claims that Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft's office refused to provide Fitzpatrick's office with cybersecurity reviews of 116 local election authorities. In addition, the downgraded rating comes from the claim that Ashcroft decided to leave a national election database program without consulting local election authorities.

"With a major election cycle right around the corner, verifying the implementation of the new cyber security reviews was a vital part of our audit," Fitzpatrick said. "The law clearly provides our audit staff with the authority to receive and review this information, and it's disappointing the Secretary of State's Office stood in the way of our efforts to perform a thorough analysis of how the new cyber security reviews have been implemented."

Ashcroft rebutted the claims in a news conference Tuesday morning, saying the report is a "political attack" and not based in Missouri law.

"These are political opinions under the guise of an audit report that are being put forth by an agency that doesn't even understand the issues that they're talking about," Ashcroft said.

This comes as Ashcroft is campaigning for governor. The two state officials had a recent public dispute over the fiscal note on the abortion ballot initiative.

Ashcroft's office decided to leave the Electronic Registration Information Center. ERIC is an organization that helps election officials track and maintain voter records. Ashcroft claims the organization was not helping or necessary to Missouri's elections.

"It is a decision that, contrary to what the state auditor says, we did fully play it out and think about it took us right about a year to make that decision because we wanted to leave it well," Ashcroft said. "We wanted to make sure that Missouri's elections continued to be the gold standard of this country. And they are. I mean, the proof is in the pudding."

Fitzpatrick's report claims local election authorities are concerned the loss of ERIC will make it more difficult to track voter records.

"I can respect why Secretary Ashcroft felt it was necessary to end the relationship with ERIC, but that doesn't negate the responsibility to have a plan to replace that data so the office has a reliable way to ensure we don't have dead voters registered in Missouri as we enter a major election year," Fitzpatrick said.

ABC 17 News asked Boone County Clerk Brianna Lennon about ERIC; she said she agrees with the auditor's claim. Lennon was disappointed in the decision to leave. Lennon said Missouri's ERIC membership led to cleaner voter rolls, and she's concerned the loss of membership will create holes in voter records.

Article Topic Follows: Missouri Politics

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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