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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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‘Let’s grow up’: State rests in Kari Lake election challenge 

In the finale of a three-day trial, attorneys for the state argued Lake brought no evidence to prove the 2022 gubernatorial election was stolen from her.

MESA, Ariz. (CN) — After three days of trial in Maricopa County Superior Court, a judge will soon rule — perhaps for the last time — on whether the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial election was stolen from former television news anchor and failed candidate Kari Lake.

“We’ve shown and proven in court what the world knows,” Lake said after trial Friday afternoon. “That we have very, very bad elections here in Maricopa County. 

“I’m praying that the judge feels the weight of this republic on his shoulders.”

After a trip to the Arizona Supreme Court and back, in which six of her seven claims against Governor Katie Hobbs, the Arizona secretary of state and Maricopa County were dismissed, Lake argued once again to Maricopa County Judge Peter Thompson that the county didn’t conduct signature verification on the more than 1.3 million mail-in ballots cast in the General Election. 

Throughout three days of testimony, though, Lake’s witnesses did more to refute her claims to strengthen them. Two “whistleblowers” who worked for the county in signature verification during the election testified that they didn’t see how workers could have verified as many signatures as they did in the timeframe given, insinuating that workers didn’t actually do their jobs. But in doing so, both witnesses said they did their best to do their jobs properly, dousing the claim that those jobs weren’t performed.

“Where I come from, your honor, we wouldn’t call them whistleblowers,” attorney Craig Morgan said in his closing argument on behalf of the Arizona secretary of state. “We would call them evangelists.”

Morgan called them “a marching band for Maricopa County” in his opening statement Wednesday. 

Lake’s attorneys pointed to a document summarizing the county’s signature verification data, which apparently showed roughly 70,000 signatures were verified each in less than two seconds, which Lake’s team said should have been impossible.

“That’s not signature verification,” Lake’s attorney Kurt Olsen said. “If I flip through the pages of a book,” he went on, quickly thumbing through documents to mimic verifiers looking at signatures, “I can say I’m reading, but that’s not so.”

But Ray Valenzuela, Maricopa County elections director and witness called by both sides, said Lake's attorneys misinterpreted the data, counting thousands of ballots verified with alternative methods as “zero-second approvals,” giving the false impression that every mail-in ballot was rushed through verification. He said 44,799 ballots signed in-person ballots, 15,411 cured ballots — ballots originally rejected for inconsistent signatures that were later verified with the voters — and 3,800 military and overseas ballots were verified outside the signature verification protocol, then sent through in large batches, recording “zero seconds” between approvals. Totaling 64,010 ballots, Hobbs’ attorney Thomas Liddy said those ballots weren’t properly counted, giving Lake’s team a misleading summary of the data.

Olsen argued those ballots weren’t used in calculating how many ballots were signed and how quickly, but the document the team referenced totaled 1,416,520 signatures verified overall, while Maricopa County’s own data showed the number was only 1,311,674. Liddy said those numbers prove Lake’s team over-counted in trying to prove their point.

Regardless, Lake and her team stood by their claim the county didn’t verify signatures on mail-in ballots, setting aside the “gatekeeper defense from fraud in mail-in voting,” as Olsen put it. 

“Maricopa puts on a façade of taking signature verification seriously,” he said in his closing statement. 

Lake campaigned on the idea of election fraud from the start, and claimed the 2022 election was stolen from her before the count was even confirmed. Lake received an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, who claimed without evidence that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him as well. From there, election conspiracy theories spread throughout Arizona politics, inspiring dozens of bills Arizona Republicans claimed were needed to bolster election security that Hobbs ultimately vetoed. It also inspired a joint elections committee hearing in February resulting in the expulsion of Liz Harris from the House of Representatives, after guest speakers she had approved of accused lawmakers and other local officials of taking bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel and the Church of Latter Day Saints. 

“There’s a reason we’re the laughing stock of elections,” Lake said after the trial. “There’s a reason Arizonans don’t trust in our electoral system here.”

Rather than corruption or incompetence of county officials, Liddy chalked the mistrust up to “misinformation, lies and filth being broadcast all over the internet 24 hours a day.”

“It’s just so possible that some of the folks out there are losing confidence in our elections because they’re reading that stuff,” he said. 

Lake, sitting in the back of the courtroom, scowled as Liddy addressed Judge Thompson.

“Lake has completely failed,” Liddy said. “End this. Let’s move on. Let’s grow up.”

But Olsen asked Thompson to order a new election.

“Trust must be restored,” he said.

Attorneys expect Thompson to rule within five days. 

Follow @JournalistJoeAZ
Categories / Politics, Regional, Trials

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