By Jack Phillips
A Maricopa County, Arizona judge ruled that two out of 10 claims brought by GOP gubernatorial candidate that challenges Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs’ election win can go to trial.
Maricopa County Superior Judge Peter Thompson dismissed (pdf) the eight other claims in Lake’s lawsuit, ruling they didn’t meet the criteria to bring election challenges under state law. Filed earlier this month, Lake’s suit asked the judge to either declare her the victor or hold another vote in Maricopa County.
Lake’s remaining claims alleging intentional interference with ballot printers and chain-of-custody problems will be heard later this week. The parties will meet on Tuesday to allow Lake’s team to inspect a small sample of Maricopa County ballots.
“Defendants dispute the lack of compliance with chain of custody laws and claim that Plaintiff has misunderstood the forms required. As presented, whether the county complied with its own manual and applicable statutes is a dispute of fact rather than one of law. This is true as to whether such lack of compliance was both intentional and did in fact result in a changed outcome,” Thompson wrote.
The judge dismissed a number of claims, including Lake’s assertion that Hobbs, in her capacity as secretary of state, and Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer engaged in censorship by targeting social media posts for possible removal by Twitter.
But Hobbs, according to the judge, could be called to testify in her capacity as Arizona’s secretary of state, a position she currently holds. Earlier in the week, lawyers Hobbs submitted a motion to quash attempts to testify in her official capacity.
Following Thompson’s ruling, Lake wrote on Twitter, “Our Election Case is going to trial. Katie Hobbs attempt to have our case thrown out FAILED. She will have to take the stand & testify.” She then added: “Arizona, We will have our day in court!”
Since the Nov. 8 election, Lake has targeted Maricopa County officials and claimed the election was fraught with maladministration. On Twitter, the former television host has often posted videos of supporters claiming they were disenfranchised while trying to cast their ballots on Election Day.
Lake has also pointed to a Nov. 8 news conference held by two top Maricopa County officials, Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates and Recorder Stephen Richer, in which they confirmed a ballot printer error that forced some voters to place their ballots in dropboxes for later tabulation. The two said later that day that the ballot printer problem was solved and that no voters were disenfranchised.
High-profile Democrat lawyer Marc Elias, whose team is representing Hobbs, claimed Monday’s court ruling was a victory for them. He said that most of Lake’s claims were dismissed and noted that she has a high bar to clear during the upcoming trial.
“Proving intentional wrongdoing and that it affected the outcome of the election will be impossible for Lake,” Elias wrote.
Days after the Nov. 8 contest, the Arizona Attorney General’s office sent a letter (pdf) to Maricopa County, demanding information about ballot-tabulation errors on Election Day after voters complained to the office’s election division. “Based on the plethora of reports from election workers, poll observers, and voters, combined with Maricopa County’s admission that there were in fact widespread problems,” the letter stated.
Meanwhile, a judge in Mohave County said he would rule Tuesday on a separate election challenge filed by Abe Hamadeh, the Republican candidate for attorney general who lost by 511 votes to Democrat Kris Mayes. Hamadeh’s case raises many of the same claims as Lake’s. Mayes and Hobbs in her official capacity as secretary of state have asked Judge Lee Jantzen to dismiss the challenge.
Election data shows that Lake trailed Hobbs by about 17,000 votes before Hobbs’ election win was certified earlier this month. Outgoing Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, previously met with Hobbs to ensure a transition of power after the new year.
A lawsuit filed by Mark Finchem, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, was dismissed by another judge several days ago with prejudice, meaning the lawsuit cannot be filed again. Unlike Lake and Hamadeh, Finchem trailed his Democrat opponent by more than 120,000 votes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.