An Arizona judge has ordered the company known as Cyber Ninjas to preserve all records in its possession related to the audit of the presidential election results in Maricopa County, Arizona, and this preservation was ordered for the eventual purpose of releasing those records to the public. Republicans in the Arizona state Senate brought in Cyber Ninjas to complete the Maricopa County audit despite the company’s total lack of previous experience in election auditing, and in the time since it took on the endeavor, predictable issues have emerged. Arizona Judge John Hannah ordered Cyber Ninjas to preserve those documents amid a case seeking the materials brought by The Arizona Republic, a newspaper in the state.
Previously, both the Arizona state Senate and Cyber Ninjas have claimed that records possessed by the company related to the audit should not be considered subject to rules in the state regarding public records. Although Hannah did order the preservation of these company documents, he did not order the immediate release of the materials, because the Arizona Supreme Court paused the implementation of an order to release what would appear to be the same (or nearly the same) records in a different case this week.
Still, Hannah wrote that all “defendants, including Cyber Ninjas, are ordered to carefully secure, protect and preserve from deterioration, mutilation, loss or destruction any and all records in their custody, possession or control that are reasonably necessary or appropriate to maintain an accurate knowledge of their official activities concerning the 2020 Maricopa County election audit, including records of the performance, funding and staffing of said audit.” The audit has been conducted under the ultimate supervision of the Arizona state Senate, which subpoenaed and successfully obtained materials from last year’s election from local authorities. In the time since, those local authorities — including plenty of Republicans — have repeatedly come out against the so-called audit. As is the case elsewhere in the country, the election results in Maricopa County already underwent rigorous — and actually competent — scrutiny.
Judge Hannah has also ordered the Arizona state Senate to deliver audit-related records in its possession by August 31. (These records would be distinct from the audit-related records held by Cyber Ninjas, which have been particularly contested.) In the event of claims by the Senate that certain materials in its possession shouldn’t be considered subject to the judge’s order for public disclosure, Hannah is requiring the body to submit a list outlining the documents. As proceedings continue, The Arizona Republic will have a chance to challenge the withholding by the Senate of individual documents.