ARIZONA NEWS

Trial over Kari Lake’s last challenge to loss in Arizona governor’s race wraps up 1st day

May 17, 2023, 6:43 AM | Updated: 7:18 pm

MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Maricopa County has a failed process for verifying thousands of ballot signatures that even some of its own workers question, attorneys for Kari Lake, the 2022 Republican candidate for Arizona governor, argued in court Wednesday.

Lake’s lawyers spent most of the first day of a three-day trial showing video and taking testimony from two previous signature screeners who alleged election workers was overwhelmed.

The allegations are the only remaining legal claim in challenge of her defeat six months ago to Democrat Katie Hobbs in the Arizona governor’s race.

“There’s simply no way to review signatures with respect to procedures,” Kurt Olsen, one of Lake’s attorneys said.

The former TV anchor was among the most vocal of last year’s Republican candidates promoting former President Donald Trump’s election lies, which she made the centerpiece of her campaign.

Lake listened to the proceedings from a seat in the back of the courtroom but did not speak. She left two hours into the hearing.

While most other election deniers around the country conceded after losing their races in November, Lake did not. She lost to Hobbs by more than 17,000 votes.

Courts have dismissed most of her lawsuit, but the Arizona Supreme Court revived one claim that challenges the implementation of signature verification procedures on early ballots in Maricopa County, home to more than 60% of the state’s voters.

Superior Court Judge Peter A. Thompson said in a ruling Monday that Lake alleges Maricopa County officials failed to perform any higher level signature verifications on mail-in ballots that had been flagged by lower level screeners for any inconsistencies.

In a subsequent decision, Thompson said Lake also is challenging any alleged violations of signature verification policies by lower level screeners, too.

The video footage shown by Lake’s legal team came from a Maricopa County camera feed that purportedly shows a signature verified incorrectly and hastily by a worker.

Reynaldo “Rey” Valenzuela, Maricopa County director of elections, testified that the temporary worker simply didn’t grasp the technological skills needed for the job and he was re-assigned elsewhere. Signature verifiers are also randomly audited.

“We review them for consistency,” Valenzuela said. “Was there some sort of inconsistency where someone did all good (signatures) or all bad?”

A lower-level worker also testified that higher-level signature reviewers were overwhelmed and kicked back ballot affidavit envelopes that seemed questionable.

Three workers on lower-level signature verification who filed declarations in court on Lake’s behalf have said they experienced rejection rates due to mismatched signatures on 15% to 40% of the ballots they encountered.

Attorneys for Arizona election officials said the workers’ speculation on signature verification efforts does not amount to a violation of the law or misconduct by election workers — and raised questions about whether the three workers could know the outcome of the specific ballots they had flagged.

Lake isn’t contesting whether voters’ signatures on ballot envelopes matched those in their voting records.

In a ruling Monday night, Thompson refused to throw out Lake’s claim.

Lake faces a high bar in proving not only her allegation over signature verification efforts but also that it affected the outcome of her race.

County officials say they have nothing to hide and are confident that they will prevail in court.

Lake’s lawyers say there was a flood of mail-in ballots in Maricopa County at a time when there were too few workers to verify ballot signatures. Her attorneys say the county ultimately accepted thousands of ballots that had been rejected earlier by workers for having mismatched signatures.

By reviving the claim, the Arizona Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision that found Lake waited too long to raise it.

Earlier in her lawsuit, Lake had focused on problems with ballot printers at some polling places in Maricopa County. The defective printers produced ballots that were too light to be read by the on-site tabulators at polling places. Lines were backed up in some areas amid the confusion. Lake alleged ballot printer problems were the result of intentional misconduct.

County officials say everyone had a chance to vote and all ballots were counted because those affected by the printers were taken to more sophisticated counters at election headquarters.

In mid-February, the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected Lake’s assertions, concluding she presented no evidence that voters whose ballots were unreadable by tabulators at polling places were unable to vote.

The following month, the state Supreme Court declined to hear nearly all of Lake’s appeal, saying there was no evidence to support her claim that more than 35,000 ballots were added to vote totals.

Earlier this month, the court sanctioned Lake’s lawyers $2,000 for making false statements when saying that more than 35,000 ballots had been improperly added to the total count.

The trial beginning Wednesday will be the second conducted in Lake’s election challenge.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Saul Ballardo was sentenced to 26 years in prison after he shot at officers in the West Valley. (Ma...

KTAR.com

West Valley man sentenced to 26 years in prison for targeted shootings at law enforcement

A West Valley man was sentenced to 26 years in prison after he shot at multiple members of law enforcement, authorities announced Monday.

35 minutes ago

side by side of Robert Robbins and crowds of people....

SuElen Rivera

UArizona President Robert Robbins to take pay cut amid budget crisis

After leadership changes, the newly elected chair of the state university's governing board plans to cut the salary of UArizona's president.

3 hours ago

A person fell down a well in Chandler on March 4, 2024. (Pexels Photo)...

KTAR.com

Person injured after falling 15 feet into well in Chandler

A person was injured after falling 15 feet into a dry well in an empty field in Chandler on Monday morning, authorities said.

4 hours ago

Blurry photo of an ambulance with lights on at night...

KTAR.com

Impairment believed to be a factor in fatal weekend collision in north Phoenix

One man is dead and another is in the hospital after a collision involving two passenger vehicles and a parked city bus in north Phoenix.

5 hours ago

Pentagon Technologies in View 202...

Damon Allred

Pentagon Technologies to build $50 million semiconductor cleaning facility in Mesa

Construction is underway for a semiconductor equipment cleaning facility in southeast Mesa expected to open later this year.

6 hours ago

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks on the 59th commemoration of the Bloody Sunday Selma bridge cro...

KTAR.com

VP Kamala Harris to visit Phoenix day after president’s State of the Union address

Vice President Kamala Harris is coming to Phoenix this week, one day after President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address.

8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Trial over Kari Lake’s last challenge to loss in Arizona governor’s race wraps up 1st day