Kari Lake signature verifications claim rejected by judge

Judge Peter A. Thompson ruled the court didn’t find clear and convincing evidence in Lake's claim.
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 7:37 PM MST|Updated: May. 22, 2023 at 8:49 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -- Kari Lake’s lawsuit had another loss after a judge rejected her last remaining claim on Monday. After a three-day trial last week, Judge Peter A. Thompson ruled the court didn’t find clear and convincing evidence that Maricopa County election officials failed to correctly verify signatures during the 2022 general election, affirming the election of Democrat Katie Hobbs.

Lake’s lawyers spent several days in court arguing that Maricopa County failed to perform higher level signature verifications on flagged mail-in ballots. The former TV news anchor’s team also showed video footage from a Maricopa County camera feed that allegedly shows a signature verified incorrectly and hastily by a worker. However, the ruling said Reynaldo “Rey” Valenzuela, Maricopa County director of elections, showed the court 1,600 signatures reviewed by him personally during the general election and gave the court an overview of the process based on his 33 years of experience. The court found the signature review consisted of “153 level one reviewers, 43 level two reviewers, and two ongoing audits.”

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Lake’s team also argued that 274,000 signatures were compared in less than two seconds and 70,000 were less than a second. However, Judge Thompson ruled that no reviewer is required to spend any specific length of time on any particular signature. “Not one second, not three seconds, and not six seconds: no standard appears in the plain text of the statute,” a portion of the ruling read. “The Court finds that looking at signatures that, by and large, have consistent characteristics will require only a cursory examination and thus take very little time.”

She filed suit after losing to Hobbs by about 17,000 votes, asking the courts to install her as governor or order a new election. Thompson dismissed the case, but the Arizona Supreme Court revived a claim that challenges how signature verification procedures were used on early ballots in Maricopa County, home to more than 60% of the state’s voters. County officials had defended the signature verification efforts and said they had nothing to hide.

Lake’s signature verification claim was the subject of a three-day trial. Her lawyers argued that there was evidence that lower-level screeners who found inconsistencies in signatures ran them up the chain of command, where they were neglected by higher level verifiers. She did not contest whether voters’ signatures on ballot envelopes matched those in their voting records.

The former TV anchor faced a high bar in proving not only her allegation over signature verification efforts but also that it affected the outcome of her race. Thompson, who was appointed to the bench by former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, said she did not meet that high bar. “The evidence the Court received does not support Plaintiff’s remaining claim,” he wrote.

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.

Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Clint Hickman released a statement following the judge’s ruling.