MESA, Ariz. (CN) — Failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake may have one more shot at challenging the 2022 election, in which she lost to Katie Hobbs by nearly 20,000 votes.
That opportunity hinges on whether a Maricopa County judge dismisses Lake’s remaining claim that county elections officials didn’t follow state law while verifying signatures on mail-in ballots.
The Arizona Supreme Court rejected six of Lake’s seven claims in a lawsuit she filed in December against Hobbs, the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, the county recorder, county director of elections and the county Board of Supervisors. The Supreme Court sent the signature verification claim back to the trial court, arguing that Maricopa County Judge Peter Thompson used the wrong legal standard to dismiss it the first time around.
To support the claim, Lake uses testimony of a few signature verifiers, along with a study of the 2020 election conducted by an organization called We The People AZ Alliance, to argue that election officials counted a “material number” of ballots with mismatched or fraudulent signatures toward the election, allowing the wrong candidate to win. The county already debunked We The People AZ Alliance’s study in January.
Thompson ruled that because the challenge is specific to election procedures, Lake should have filed the lawsuit before the election concluded. But the Arizona Supreme Court disagreed. Because the challenge targets the application of the policies, rather than the policies themselves, the higher court said Lake couldn’t have filed the lawsuit until the election occurred.
At a hearing Friday morning, Hobbs’ attorney Abha Khanna said what's left of Lake's lawsuit should be dismissed again because it doesn’t state a claim.
“There’s just not much there,” Khanna said of Lake’s allegations of signature verifier misconduct.
Declarations of signature workers used in Lake’s arguments claim four things, Khanna explained: Level one signature reviewers rejected 15% to 40% of mail-in ballots received, level two signature reviewers overturned many of those rejections, there weren’t enough observers to ensure rules were followed, and there weren’t enough safeguards to prevent foul play.
“There’s no allegation that the county failed to comply with signature verification rules,” Khanna said. “All they allege is that nothing prevented election workers from misconduct.”
Joseph LaRue, on behalf of the county, added that the verifiers were going off memory when giving their declarations, so the numbers they gave can’t be fully relied upon. Additionally, the fact that so many ballots were rejected, as Lake claims, only proves that election workers did their jobs properly, he said.
“The assertion that the election was rigged is offensive, and it's untrue,” he said, pointing his finger to the judge.
As for We The People’s debunked study of the 2020 election, Khanna said it simply doesn’t apply.
“The 2020 election is no more relevant to what happened in this election than an election that took place in New Mexico or Florida.”
Lake’s attorney Kurt Olsen countered that the 2020 election study corroborates what “whistleblowers” claim about the 2022 election. As for the signature verifiers, he argued there simply wasn’t enough time in the day to verify signatures of the thousands of early ballots submitted, unless they spent merely four seconds verifying each signature.
LaRue again pointed to Maricopa County’s January report debunking such claims.
Meanwhile, Lake’s attorneys are challenging the court’s denial of her claims the ballot printers lacked proper certifications and were tampered with to alter the outcome of the vote.
Olsen pointed to multiple ballot printers that printed incorrect documents upon random testing, saying even the technical experts couldn’t explain the printers’ odd behaviors. Changes to the security settings on printers after Oct. 11 testing were cause for concern as well. Furthermore, Olsen said up to 59% of vote centers experienced “severe malfunctions” with their printers, which he said can only be explained by either the presence of malware in the systems or a third party taking remote access to the machines.
“That, your honor, is damning,” Olsen said.
LaRue countered that the changes to the security settings were done specifically to prevent issues with the machines. The software was loaded onto some machines prior to testing on Oct. 11, he said, and added to the rest of the machines throughout the following week. He said the malfunctions seen in vote centers were due to small errors, like the orientation of ballots entered, or whether the scanners were clean or covered in lint. Most of the machines that originally rejected ballots accepted them after those problems were solved, he said
“There was no shocking bombshell,” LaRue said. “There was no issue with the logic and accuracy tests.”
Olsen said the “shocking revelation” was that the county installed software onto the rest of the machines without testing each of them, which leaves the possibility for error in those machines that weren’t retested.
Thompson said he’ll issue a ruling on both matters as soon as possible. A three-day trial is set for Wednesday through next Friday, depending on Thompson’s decisions.Follow @@JournalistJoeAZ
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