County tells Arizona Senate to keep files, threatens lawsuit

FILE – In this May 6, 2021 file photo, Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. On Friday, May 21, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming the election database in Maricopa County, in Arizona has been deleted, seals were improperly broken on boxes that hold the votes and ballots are missing./AP Photo/Matt York, Pool, File

By Jonathan J. Cooper | Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) — Maricopa County officials on Friday directed the Arizona Senate and the auditors it hired to review the county’s 2020 election count to preserve documents for a possible lawsuit.

The county made the demand in a letter after the auditors refused to back down from their claim that the county destroyed evidence by deleting an election database. The GOP-controlled Board of Supervisors and Republican Recorder Stephen Richer, one of the top election officials, say the claim is false.

County officials earlier this week said they might consider filing a defamation lawsuit if the Senate President Karen Fann and the auditors don’t retract the allegation files were deleted.

“Because of the wrongful accusations that the County destroyed evidence, the County or its elected officers may now be subject to, or have, legal claims,” the county’s chief litigation attorney, Tom Liddy, wrote in a letter to Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican from Prescott.

Senate Republicans are overseeing an unprecedented partisan audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, including a hand recount of 2.1 million ballots and a review of voting machines and other data. Fann claimed the database was deleted, which a twitter account tied to the audit called “spoliation of evidence.” Former President Donald Trump amplified the claim in a statement last weekend.

County officials said Monday that no databases or directories were deleted and laid out a detailed explanation for why they believe the auditors couldn’t find them, accusing the auditors of ineptitude. The next day, a data forensics consultant on the audit team said he was able to “recover” the files, and the audit’s Twitter account later repeated the claim that files were deleted.

The letter directs Fann and anyone working on the audit to preserve any records related to it, including emails and text messages, computer files, cellphones and other devices.

The audit will not change the election result. But Trump and many of his supporters believe it will support their baseless claim that Trump’s loss was marred by fraud.

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