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Kari Lake’s election challenge heads back to trial

A Maricopa County judge denied Governor Katie Hobbs' motion to dismiss the last count in Lake's challenge of the 2022 gubernatorial election.

MESA, Ariz. (CN) — Kari Lake will have one more chance in court this week to prove that the 2022 election was stolen from her via mass voter fraud.

Monday evening, a Maricopa County judge denied a motion to dismiss the final count in the failed gubernatorial candidate’s election lawsuit, sending the case back to trial beginning Wednesday. 

The Arizona Supreme Court rejected six of Lake’s seven claims in a lawsuit she filed in December against Governor Katie Hobbs, the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, the county recorder, county director of elections and the county Board of Supervisors. But it sent a claim challenging the validity of the election’s signature verification process back to the trial court, arguing that Maricopa County Judge Peter Thompson used the wrong legal standard to dismiss it the first time around.

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. 

Lake uses testimonies from former poll workers who verified ballot signatures in the 2022 election, along with an already-debunked study of the 2020 election produced by an organization called We The People AZ Alliance, to argue that a “material number” of ballots with mismatched or fraudulent signatures were counted, skewing the results of the vote against Lake. 

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 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.”

This time around, Thompson disagreed. He said it’s clear in Lake’s argument that she claims that election officials failed to comply with state laws regarding signature verification, and that fraudulent ballots that made it past the first round of verification because of that failure were counted in a large enough outcome to affect the outcome. 

“While the wording of Count III does not state this allegation clearly, it can be read broadly enough that Lake’s argument fits under notice pleading requirements,” he wrote.

The county also argued that because the law allows for challenges to individual ballots verification as it takes place, that is the only way the ballots can be challenged. Thompson agreed, but countered that Lake’s claim doesn’t apply to individual signatures but rather contests that no further verification was done on signatures that were found to be fraudulent by level one reviewers. 

Khanna told Thompson Friday that We the People AZ Alliance’s study of the 2020 election beared no more relevance to the 2020 election “than an election that took place in New Mexico or Florida.” But Thompson deemed it a matter to be discussed in trial rather than a basis for dismissal. 

As Hobbs and Maricopa county fought to dismiss Lake’s final claim, Lake tried to reinstate those already dismissed, focusing on her claim that ballot printers lacked proper certifications and were tampered with to alter the outcome of the vote. 

Along with issues seen in multiple ballot printers upon random testing, Lake's attorney Kurt Olsen said changes to security settings on tabulators, like installing memory cards into tabulators without performing proper logic and accuracy testing, are cause for concern.

“That, your honor, is damning,” Olsen said. 

Whether it was damning or not proved useless to Thompson, as it didn’t fit the claim Lake wanted to revive. He wrote that Lake altered the nature of her claims upon motion for relief, which first included issues only with printers, to instead include issues on memory cards inserted into tabulators. 

“While the difference between a tabulator-based claim and a printer-based claim may seem like a subtle distinction, it is not,” Thompson wrote. “Count II was fully litigated at trial and this court’s disposition was affirmed by both the Court of Appeals and Arizona Supreme Court. This is not newly discovered evidence that goes to the claim as presented to the court in December and reviewed on appeal. It is a wholly new claim, and therefore Count II remains unrevived.”

Lake will take her signature verification claims back to court Wednesday at 9 a.m. The trial is scheduled for three days.

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Categories / Law, Politics, Regional

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