By Jack Phillips
The Arizona Supreme Court agreed to expedite a hearing for Republican Arizona candidate Kari Lake’s election lawsuit after two lower state courts rejected it.
Lake had filed a “motion to expedite” the lawsuit and argued that such actions are needed “to resolve these issues is needed to safeguard Arizona voters’ right to free and equal elections.” On March 3, the state’s highest court wrote in an order “granting the motion for expedited consideration” and current Gov. Katie Hobbs, a former secretary of state, and the state agency need to respond by March 13.
“The Court anticipates considering the matter at an internal conference on March 21, 2023. At the conference, the Court will decide whether to accept review and schedule an oral argument,” the brief order said.
Lake, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, lost the November midterm election to Hobbs—a Democrat who was sworn in more than two months agos—by 17,000 votes, according to state data. A former television journalist, Lake has contended that there were enough problems on Election Day that suppressed voter turnout for Republican voters in Maricopa County and said the county’s contest either needs to be re-done or she be declared the winner.
In late December after a two-day trial in Lake’s first lawsuit, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson dismissed her request for a new election and said Lake’s team did not bring enough evidence showing that she was maligned by Election Day issues. Later, she appealed her case to the state Court of Appeals, which rejected her challenge in late February.
For her appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court, Lake’s lawyers contended that Maricopa County election officials intentionally caused havoc on Election Day, including triggering issues with vote-tabulating machines that resulted in delays and long lines. Those issues, Lake said, were an attempt to quash GOP voters. Her team also accused Maricopa County of mingling what she described as illegal ballots with legal ballots as well as approving invalid signatures on absentee ballots.
Describing the alleged Nov. 8 voting chaos, the lawsuit said that a “Republican attorney observer—part of a group of Republican attorneys covering 115 of 223 vote centers on Election Day—testified there was ‘pandemonium out there everywhere’ with ‘lines out the door, which did not—you did not see during the Primary…. [and] angry and frustrated voters.’”
“The evidence and testimony presented at the Arizona Senate Committee on Elections meeting on January 23, 2023, showed more than 7,000 ballots being rejected by vote center tabulators every 30 minutes from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm—totaling over 217,000 rejected ballot insertions on a day with approximately 248,000 votes cast,” the suit said.
Responding to the Arizona Court of Appeals decision to reject Lake’s challenge, her team said the lower court “erred” by relying on “presumptions that election officers act in good faith” and that “elevated evidentiary standards would effectively immunize election officials from suit, even if their intentional misconduct or gross negligence impairs elections.”
Maricopa County lawyers have rejected Lake’s claims that there was intentional malfeasance on behalf of county officials in connection to the Nov. 9 printer problems. Maricopa County elections co-director Scott Jarrett, during December’s trial, blamed printing issues in some polling spots on toner that wasn’t dark enough, saying that it resulted in voters with certain ballots that couldn’t be read having to place them in a secure box to be counted later.
Jarrett told the court that some 17,000 ballots ended up in the secure boxes across the county. Later, he said there is “no reason to believe” any of the problems were intentionally caused.
“All the votes get transferred to the duplicated ballot that gets duplicated and tabulated,” Jarrett said.
Should her lawsuit be rejected by the state Supreme Court or any federal courts, her future in the Republican Party appears to be bright. Over the weekend, Lake won the Conservative Action Political Conference (CPAC) straw poll for vice president, defeating Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
“We’re flattered, but unfortunately our legal team says the Constitution won’t allow for her to serve as Governor and VP at the same time,” Lake’s team wrote on Twitter Sunday, referring to her election-related legal challenge that was recently appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court.
Lake won the straw poll with 20 percent of the vote. Haley nabbed 10 percent and DeSantis acquired 14 percent in the vice presidential poll.