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Kari Lake election challenge fizzles at second day of trial

Attorneys for election denier Kari Lake provided no new evidence that mail-in ballot signature verification didn’t occur.

MESA, Ariz. (CN) — Kari Lake, a former television-news anchor and failed Republican gubernatorial candidate in the 2022 Arizona elections, has been fighting in court to prove that the governor's race was stolen from her.

The witnesses she called to testify on her behalf, though, did little to strengthen that case at trial.

Rather than showing that Arizona did not verify signatures on 2022 mail-in ballots — the sole remaining claim in Lake's stolen-election case — multiple witnesses this week seemed to prove just the opposite. Lake's team has already rested its case, meaning they've presumably presented all available evidence of an allegedly stolen election.

As far as evidence goes, it wasn't much.

More than six months after losing the 2022 governor's race to Democrat Katie Hobbs, Lake still claims mail-in ballot signature verifiers “systematically failed to comply with the law" by allegedly not conducting signature verification, resulting in the wrong person occupying the governor’s office.

Around 1.3 million Arizonans voted by mail in the 2022 state general elections, and more than 2.5 million people voted in total. Lake lost by roughly 17,000 votes.

Lake first filed suit in December against Hobbs, Democratic Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes and Maricopa County, the state's most populous county and home to Phoenix. The case made it to the Arizona Supreme Court before being sent back to Maricopa County courts with only one claim remaining: allegations that signatures were not adequately verified.

In the first day of trial on Wednesday, Lake’s attorneys questioned two purported “whistleblowers” who worked for Maricopa County as signature verifiers in 2022. The witnesses told the court they weren’t sure whether election workers could have verified as many signatures as they did in the time frame they were given, insinuating that workers didn’t actually do their jobs.

However, when questioned at trial about their own experiences, both said they tried to verify signatures to the best of their abilities — throwing water on Lake's only claim, which they were ostensibly there to strengthen. Maricopa County attorney Jack O’Connor made a point of thanking both witnesses for their work.

Lake’s team again fumbled on day two, once again struggling and failing to prove the only remaining element of Lake's case.

Her team called Erich Speckin, a self-proclaimed forensic document analyst with over 30 years of experience in verifying handwriting. He echoed the other witnesses' claims of shoddy signature verification, though he also had little to no evidence to back up this assertion.

Going off a document that apparently summarized data on the keystrokes of 155 signature verifiers, Speckin said there were at least 70,000 instances in which a signature verification determination was made in less than two seconds.

“I don’t believe it can be done,” he said.

Lawyers for Arizona, though, raised questions about the validity of that document. Arguing on behalf of the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, attorney Craig Morgan said it was unclear who produced the document, when it was produced or whether it even accurately summarized real data.

On cross-examination, he also reminded the court that Speckin was called not as an expert on statistical or data analysis but on handwriting comparisons.

“You cannot say with any certainty whether [the election] was stolen or not,” Morgan said. Speckin agreed. 

Meanwhile, Ray Valenzuela, Maricopa County elections director, said Speckin's data offered a misleading and incomplete picture.

If the signature on a ballot clearly looks the same as one on file, it can absolutely take only "one to two seconds" to verify signatures, he said. State law doesn’t dictate how long the process should take.

There were other cases, Valenzuela added, where this verification process could also take "less than a second" — including cases where the signature on the ballot had already been effectively verified.

If a ballot is submitted without a signature or with an alternative marking instead of a signature — a technique used by some people with disabilities who are unable to sign their names — that ballot is moved into a ballot "curing" process in which election workers contact the voter in an attempt to validate their ballot in another way.

Once completed, a verification stamp is added to their ballot, which is sent back to the original verifiers. Those ballots can be processed quickly because they've already been verified, Valenzuela said — and yet Speckin's data did not account for circumstances like this, giving the false impression that every mail-in ballot was rushed through verification.

The remainder of Lake’s case presented no new information at all, instead continuing to focus on how quickly one particular signature verifier previously shown in video evidence could have gone through ballots. Maricopa County Judge Peter Thompson, who is presiding over the case, complained that Lake's lawyers were asking government lawyers to make "quantum leaps in assumptions" about data that Lake's team had never fully explained.

Morgan, the lawyer for the secretary of state's office, at one point asked Thompson why the trial was even still happening. "We had an entire day of testimony of their witnesses saying [signature verification] actually happened,” undermining the entire basis of Lake's remaining case, he complained.

Morgan might not have to wait much longer. When court adjourned on Thursday, the state was still questioning Valenzuela — the only witness it plans to call. Attorneys involved in the case expect it will be over by Friday afternoon.

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Categories / Government, Politics, Regional

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