Attorney General

William Barr

U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr told federal prosecutors Monday that they may investigate specific allegations of voter fraud before certification of election results, a reversal of long-standing policies intended to prevent knowledge of investigations from influencing voters or election officials.

“Given that voting in our current elections has now concluded, I authorize you to pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities prior to the certification of elections in your jurisdictions,” Barr wrote in the memo.

The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press and NBC News have coverage.

Waiting until certification of the results and a conclusion to election contests, which was the previous approach, “can result in situations in which election misconduct cannot realistically be rectified,” Barr wrote.

Now, Barr said, prosecutors can pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities when “there are clear and apparently credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual state.”

The memo spurred the Department of Justice official who oversees voter fraud investigations, Richard Pilger, to quit his post, although he reportedly remains a DOJ employee in the public integrity section, according to the New York Times.

Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, told the New York Times that it would be bad enough if the memo was issued because of “significant, substantiated claims of misconduct” that could be handled at the local and state level.

“But to do so when there is no such evidence—and when the president’s clear strategy is to delegitimize the results of a proper election—is one of the more problematic acts of any attorney general in my lifetime,” Vladeck said.