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Kari Lake vows to keep fighting after judge tosses her final election claim

By Lauren Gilger
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Published: Tuesday, May 23, 2023 - 7:40am
Updated: Wednesday, May 24, 2023 - 4:09pm

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Kari Lake
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Kari Lake explains what's next on May 24, 2023, the day after a judge tossed the last remaining claim in her bid to overturn the 2022 gubernatorial election.

Kari Lake said Tuesday she will appeal Monday’s ruling confirming the election of Katie Hobbs as governor, brushing aside the fact that the judge said her key evidence in seeking to overturn the result was legally irrelevant.

In a press conference outside her Phoenix headquarters, Lake said she has been denied the ability to put on a case showing she actually won the race. She said that is because of the rulings about state elections laws from Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson all the way up through the Arizona Supreme Court about what she needed to prove.

All of them went against her.

“The judges have basically said anything goes, it doesn’t matter,” the failed GOP contender charged

“Election laws are just suggestions,” she continued. “So, if anything goes, anything goes.”

Despite that, Lake said it was not her plan to violate election laws going forward, what with a possible 2024 bid for office in the wings should her latest appeal fail.

In his ruling late Monday, Thompson said Lake failed to prove that Maricopa County did not review the signatures on early ballot envelopes as required by law. In fact, he said, two of her own witnesses testified that they had personally done such checks.

Lake’s legal team also was relying on the testimony of Eric Speckin, billed as an expert in signature verification.

He told the judge that about 274,000 signatures on early ballots were compared in less than three seconds, with about 70,000 in two seconds or less. And that, Lake’s lawyers argued, shows there really was no verification.

Only thing is, Thompson said, there is nothing in state law that spells out how long a reviewer must take to compare signatures.

“Not one second, not three seconds and not six seconds: no standard appears in the plain text of the statute,” the judge said. “No reviewer is required by statute or the Elections Procedures Manual to spend any specific length of time on any particular signature.”

Thompson also brushed aside a parallel argument that what the reviewers were doing hardly meets the legal requirement to “compare” signatures. He said the statutes simply require those doing verification to “make some determination as to whether the signature is consistent or inconsistent with the voter’s record.”

“The court find that looking at signatures that, by and large, have consistent characteristics will require only a cursory examination and thus take very little time,” the judge said.

Lake on Tuesday said the judge got it wrong in dismissing Speckin’s findings as legally irrelevant.

“We have relevant evidence that 300,000, roughly, ballots were approved in less than three seconds,” she said.

“It’s not possible,” Lake said. “And we are showing it, we’re providing it, the whole world is seeing what they’re doing.”

Lake said what’s next starts with an appeal — or possibly several.

“I’m not prepared right now to tell you what our path is because we are looking at several paths,” she said.

Merissa Hamilton and Kari Lake
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Merissa Hamilton, who has run for office as a Republican, explains what she will be doing for failed gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake in the coming months and years to get more people to cast votes.

The most obvious would be asking for a review of Thompson’s latest decision.

But her attorneys also have argued there were violations of the U.S. Constitution, including a contention that problems with voting equipment on Election Day had a disproportionate affect on Republicans and therefore amount to intentional discrimination. That could present an avenue to take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court, though it is unclear if the justices there have the power to overturn the official results which show Lake losing to Hobbs by 17,117 votes.

Then there’s the possible 2024 run for something.

“I haven’t made up my mind on that,” Lake said, even as she insists she won the gubernatorial race “and we won in massive numbers.”

One possibility includes a bid for Senate, a race that has drawn some interest after incumbent Kyrsten Sinema left the Democratic Party and would have to seek another six-year term as an independent. But that would put her in a GOP primary against Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb with whom she shares many positions.

More immediately, Lake said she wants to do some grassroots organizing she said would help her and other candidates who share her position, a process she called “chasing ballots.”

That includes not just registering voters but also tracking what happens with early ballots.

“You know how I feel about mail-in ballots,” she said. But Lake said the fact remains that most votes are cast that way.

She wants to focus on those who get those ballots in the mail.

Lake said about 218,000 Republicans were on the list for early ballots in 2022 and simply didn’t return them. Similarly, she said, about 332,000 ballots sent to independent voters also were unreturned, with the ballots “left sitting on the kitchen table.”

She denied that chasing ballots and finding supporters who hadn’t returned their ballots is what her campaign workers should have been doing last year but did not.

“We didn’t drop the ball on anything,” Lake said.

“We worked out butts off, we knocked on doors,” she said. “We did it, we did it well. But we’re going to take it to the next level.”

As to the appeal, Lake’s allies already have argued that Thompson was off base in saying that she had to prove that no signature verification had been done to overturn the results. In his ruling, however, the judge noted that was a hurdle that Lake had created for herself.

Thompson said she had the option of trying to cast doubt on a specific number of ballots, something he acknowledged would have been “a Herculean evidentiary endeavor in these circumstances.”

Instead, he said, Lake made a “purposeful concession” to instead try to show that the entire signature review process for Maricopa County was not conducted according to the law.

“More to the point, she was obligated to prove that the process for submitting and processing early ballots did not occur,” the judge said, something she failed to do.

Thompson separately rejected arguments by Lake’s attorneys that signature verification is the only safeguard against fraudulent ballots being counted.

He cited the testimony of Rey Valenzuela, Maricopa County’s elections director, about other security measures built into the system.

Valenzuela said that ranged from having to show identification to register to vote and requiring someone to request an early ballot to a system where the post office notifies his office if the person to whom the ballot was sent no longer lives there.

On top of that, he told the judge, each envelope returned is encoded with not just the name of the voter but a unique bar code.

Kari Lake reads letters
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Kari Lake reads letters from people who have sent donations to her in her bid to finance her election challenge and appeal.

Clint Hickman, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, cheered the ruling, saying that Lake’s legal arguments never lived up to her rhetoric.

“When ‘bombshells’ and ‘smoking guns’ are not back up by facts, they fail in court,” he said. “This is justice.”

This won’t be Lake’s first appeal of Thompson’s rulings.

In December, Thompson ruled against other claims brought by Lake.

One involved her allegation that problems with printers and tabulators at voting centers on Election Day were done intentionally and disenfranchised people who otherwise would have voted for her. The judge said — and the Supreme Court affirmed — there was no evidence to back that claim.

Lake also charged that the county had failed to maintain a legally required chain of custody of ballots, even arguing at one point that more than 35,000 ballots were illegally injected into the tally. Both Thompson and the high court found that argument lacked merit.

Thompson had previously thrown out Lake’s charge of failure to review early ballot based on his belief that she was challenging the standards for verification in state law and the Elections Procedures Manual. He said such challenges have to come before and election, not after.

But the Supreme Court told the judge to give Lake another shot at the issue, saying she wasn’t challenging the standards but whether the county abided by them. With Monday’s ruling, Thompson said she failed to make her case.

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