Kari Lake granted new trial, must prove Maricopa County ignored signature-verification rules

Kari Lake will have one last chance to argue in court that her 17,000-vote loss 2022 election should be overturned — but to actually do so, she will have to prove conclusively that Maricopa County brazenly failed to verify tens of thousands of early voter signatures and that, in doing so, the county affected the outcome in the election.

And the judge in the case, who ruled late Monday that Lake can take her sole remaining claim to trial on Wednesday, made clear that the former GOP gubernatorial nominee has her work cut out for her: She must prove her allegations by “clear and convincing evidence,” something he noted she hasn’t yet done in her monthslong litigation trying to toss out the November election.

Noting that Lake’s allegation of election fraud “leaps over a substantial gap in the evidence presented,” Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson wrote in a ruling Monday ordering the new trial that the evidence she has presented “falls far below what is needed to establish a basis for fraud.”

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Thompson also rejected Lake’s bid to revive a claim regarding logic and accuracy testing of Maricopa County’s ballot-on-demand printers and tabulators that was previously dismissed. Lake’s attorneys argued that new evidence uncovered after the claim was dismissed warranted its reconsideration.

But the judge said Lake was really trying to introduce a “wholly new claim” against the county, as her focus had shifted from alleging intentional malfeasance with the county’s election site printers to the tabulators that were at polling locations in November.

Thompson also noted that Lake’s attorneys, Scottsdale divorce lawyer Bryan Blehm and Washington, D.C., employment attorney Kurt Olsen, for wantonly misrepresenting the findings of an independent investigation that Maricopa County commissioned after the election to determine why ballot machinery malfunctioned on Election Day, causing long lines at many polling places. Lake said the report showed that Scott Jarrett, the county’s election director, lied in her December trial when he said the mechanical errors weren’t the result of malfeasance.

But the judge wrote that Lake’s “representation of what the (investigative) report would show is 180 degrees from what the report actually says.” Rather than prove that there was any fraud or that Jarrett lied, the report “actually supports his contention that the machine error of the tabulators and ballot printers was a mechanical failure not tied to malfeasance or even misfeasance.”

In the initial December trial that Thompson presided over, and in a February appeal, both courts shot down all of Lake’s claims in her election challenge, ruling they were either improper to bring before the court in such a case or that they were not backed by the facts. The Arizona Supreme Court in March dismissed all of Lake’s claims except for one, regarding signature verification processes, which it sent back to Thompson for review, saying that the judge had improperly dismissed it.

The two-day trial that begins on Wednesday will focus solely on Lake’s allegation that Maricopa County failed to comply with state law and election procedures by not performing any higher-level signature reviews for early ballots that were flagged by low-level signature verifiers as having inconsistent signatures and instead just allowed all of those ballots to be counted.

At a hearing last week, the county’s attorney said the claim was utterly false, and he said that “the assertion that this election was rigged is offensive, and it’s untrue.”

Lake crowed on Twitter about the upcoming trial.

“HUGE: Following Supreme Court Ruling, Maricopa County Judge grants @KariLake the opportunity to EXPOSE Election Fraud IN COURT!” she wrote.

Clint Hickman, the chairman of the Maricopa County board of supervisors, said in a written statement that he looks forward to Lake bringing her evidence to court and said the county “has nothing to hide.”

“I look forward to once again showing our work,” he said. “We are proud of our team, proud of our processes, and confident we will prevail in a courtroom where the facts matter above all else.”

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