By Jack Phillips
The Arizona Court of Appeals agreed to expedite consideration of Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s lawsuit alleging that the 2022 election was flawed.
In a brief order, issued on Jan. 9 and made public the next day, the court ordered a reset of “the matter for conference on February 1, 2023,” and agreed with Lake’s arguments that her challenge should be handled as a “special action petition.” The court date was reportedly scheduled for March.
Lawyers for Democrat Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, the state’s former secretary of state, has until Jan. 17 to respond and argue why Lake’s challenge should be rejected, according to the order. Lake had petitioned both the state’s Appeals Court and Supreme Court after a Maricopa County judge rejected her case after a two-day trial in December.
But earlier this month, the Arizona Supreme Court denied Lake’s petition to transfer her election lawsuit to the high court and said it will be heard before the Appeals Court first.
In December, Lake filed a lawsuit against Hobbs in her capacity as secretary of state, Maricopa County supervisors, Maricopa Recorder Stephen Richer, and other officials, asserting that the county’s handling of the election was seriously flawed and disenfranchised Election Day voters. Lake, a former television host, argued that such disenfranchisement and election voting issues were enough to swing the election in her favor. She lost by 17,000 votes.
A Maricopa County judge, Peter Thompson, threw out Lake’s lawsuit on Dec. 24 and said she did not produce enough evidence, but he ruled that Lake should not be sanctioned and fined hundreds of thousands of dollars. Days before that, Thompson tossed out 8 of Lake’s 10 election claims.
A portion of Lake’s lawsuit included claims that she would have won or had a better chance of winning if dozens of Maricopa County ballot printers worked properly on Election Day. A number of those printers created ballots that couldn’t be read by tabulators, Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates and Richer confirmed during a Nov. 8 news conference, telling voters to place those ballots in drop-boxes or find another location to vote.
Supervisors in Maricopa recently sought to produce a report to determine why those ballot printers didn’t work in November. They hired former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor to carry out an investigation, the county confirmed last week.
Lake’s lawyers previously argued that those Maricopa officials allegedly “admitted, after first denying, that illegally misconfigured ballots were injected into the election” and triggered the “tabulators to reject tens of thousands of ballots.” Lawyers stated Republican voters on Election Day were disproportionally impacted.”
During the two-day trial, Lake called on independent pollster Richard Baris, who testified that he believes the Election Day technical problems disenfranchised enough voters that it would have changed the outcome of the race. Maricopa Election Day voters, he asserted, mostly trended Republican and that between 25,000 to 40,000 people who would normally have voted actually didn’t cast ballots as a result of the tabulator and printer errors.
Baris told the court that his estimate was primarily influenced by the number of people who began answering his exit polls but didn’t finish the process during the midterm contest.
Hobbs First Address
In a ceremony earlier this month, Hobbs was sworn in as Arizona governor, and on Monday, delivered her first speech to the state Legislature. In the address, she took a veiled shot at Lake and other state Republicans.
“Chasing conspiracy theories, pushing agendas for special interests, attacking the rights of your fellow Arizonans or seeking to further undermine our democracy will lead nowhere,” Hobbs said.
Other officials who formally took office earlier this month were Adrian Fontes as secretary of state and Kris Mayes, who won by only about 280 votes, as attorney general. Both Democrats defeated Republicans who subsequently challenged their losses in court.
Mayes’ opponent, GOP candidate Abe Hamadeh, filed a motion in Mohave County on Jan. 6 to again challenge the Nov. 8 election results in the attorney general race and argued there is new evidence of voter disenfranchisements. It came, according to his suit, after hundreds of ballots were located in Pinal County.
“We simply ask that we be given the opportunity to apply the Pinal County process across the board to conduct a physical inspection and hand count of ballots that if the Pinal County issue repeats itself anywhere else in the state could be outcome determinative in this election,” Hamadeh wrote on Twitter.