By JONATHAN J. COOPER and JACQUES BILLEAUD Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) — Kari Lake has claimed for weeks that her loss in the race for Arizona governor was illegitimate.
The former television anchor gets her long-sought opportunity to make her case to a judge this week during a two-day trial scheduled to begin on Wednesday. She’ll have a chance to inspect ballots, call witnesses and introduce evidence in a bid to prove she was the rightful winner of the race, which Democrat Katie Hobbs won by just over 17,000 votes.
She faces extremely long odds. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson said she must prove not only that misconduct occurred, but also that it was intended to deny her victory and did in fact result in the wrong woman being declared the winner.
“We have a chance to show the world that our elections are truly corrupt and we won’t take it anymore,” Lake said Tuesday at an event for Turning Point USA, a conservative youth group.
There is no jury. Thompson will make a ruling on the evidence presented, which the losing side is likely to appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court. Lake is asking the judge to either declare her the winner or order a revote in Maricopa County. The new governor takes office Jan. 2.
Lawyers for Hobbs say the trial will be a spectacle and an opportunity for Lake to spread outlandish theories about election misconduct.
“The court should not indulge this kind of a show that plaintiffs want to put on,” Hobbs attorney Abha Khanna told the judge Monday, urging him to dismiss the case in its entirety before the trial. “The court is not a theater.”
Thompson on Monday dismissed eight of the 10 claims Lake raised in her lawsuit, including Lake’s allegation that Hobbs, in her capacity as secretary of state, and Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer engaged in censorship by flagging social media posts with election misinformation for possible removal by Twitter. He also dismissed her claims of discrimination against Republicans and that mail-in voting procedures are illegal.
Thompson, who was appointed to the bench by former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, took no position on the merits of Lake’s two surviving claims, but he wrote that the law allows her to make her case.
Lake was among the most vocal 2022 Republicans promoting former President Donald Trump’s election lies, which she made the centerpiece of her campaign. While most of the other election deniers around the country conceded after losing their races, Lake has not.
She has zeroed in on problems with ballot printers at some polling places in Maricopa County, home to more than 60% of voters. The defective printers produced ballots that were too light to be read by the on-site tabulators at polling places. Lines backed up in some areas amid the confusion.
Affected ballots were taken to the more sophisticated counters at the elections department headquarters in downtown Phoenix. County officials say everyone had a chance to vote and all ballots were counted. Officials have said they’re investigating why some of the Oki brand printers failed when used with the same settings as prior elections, but it appears to have been an issue with the fuser, which heats the toner to imprint it on the paper.
Lake’s second claim is that the chain of custody for ballots was broken at an off-site facility, where a contractor scans mail ballots to prepare them for processing. She claims that workers at the facility put their own mail ballots into the pile, rather than returning them through normal channels, and also that paperwork documenting the transfer of ballots is missing.
The county disputes the claim.
For both the printer and chain of custody claims, Lake will have to prove that people intentionally interfered to steal the election from her and succeeded. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled nearly a century ago that mistakes by election officials, even big ones, are not sufficient on their own to overturn an election; the losing candidate must show the mistakes affected the result.
Meanwhile, a judge in conservative Mohave County ruled Tuesday that Republican Abraham Hamadeh can proceed with his lawsuit challenging the results of the election for attorney general, which he lost to Democrat Kris Mayes by 511 votes. Hamadeh’s lawsuit raises the same printer issues from Lake’s suit and also alleges his race was affected by improper handling of ballots that were duplicated or adjudicated by humans because they could not be read by tabulators.
Judge Lee Jantzen said Hamadeh can inspect ballots in Maricopa, Pima and Navajo counties before a trial scheduled for Friday. The results of an automatic recount of the race were scheduled to be released on Thursday but will now be delayed until Hamadeh’s lawsuit is resolved.