By Jack Phillips
A Maricopa County judge on Monday scheduled oral arguments for Friday about whether or not to hold a trial on a claim made in GOP candidate Kari Lake’s lawsuit that contests the 2022 midterm election results.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson on Monday directed attorneys for both parties to file arguments this week to debate in court on Friday, May 12.
In March, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Lake, a former broadcast journalist for a Fox affiliate station, should receive new consideration on one of several election-related claims. The legal claim that was allowed to proceed alleged that Maricopa County erred in its signature verification process during the November election.
Previously, Thompson dismissed the signature verification claim due to a legal doctrine that prevents delayed lawsuits and bars challenges to election procedures after an election was conducted. A two-day trial that was held in late December resulted in Thompson dismissing Lake’s entire election lawsuit, saying that her team didn’t provide enough evidence.
Thompson also stated that a three-day trial could start May 17 if needed, reported the Arizona Republic. But if the remaining count is dismissed, no trial would be held.
Lake, a rising star in the Republican Party and supporter of former President Donald Trump, has claimed that the November election was fraught with problems—namely in Maricopa County. She has pointed to ballot printer problems that resulted in long Election Day lines that she claims led to the disenfranchisement of Republican voters in the county, while Maricopa officials have dismissed her allegations.
Following a March Arizona Supreme Court ruling, Stephen Richer, the county’s recorder, stood by behind how he and the county handled the midterm election.
“Since the 2020 general election, Maricopa County has won over 20 lawsuits challenging the fairness, accuracy, legality, and impartiality of its election administration,” he said in a statement at the time. “This case will be no different, and will simply add another mark to Lake’s impressively long losing streak.”
And last week, the Arizona Supreme Court ordered Lake’s lawyers to pay a $2,000 fine for making allegedly “unequivocally false” claims connected to 35,000 ballots that were injected into the final Maricopa County results. In the same ruling, the high court ordered a hearing in connection to the signature verification issue.
Lake’s attorneys said the chain of custody for ballots was broken at an off-site facility where a contractor scans mail-in ballots to prepare them for processing. The lawyers asserted that workers put their own mail-in ballots into the pile rather than returning them through normal channels, and that paperwork documenting ballot transfers was missing. Maricopa County disputes the claims.
“Not only is that allegation strongly disputed by the other parties, this Court concluded and expressly stated that the assertion was unsupported by the record, and nothing in Lake’s Motion for Leave to file a motion for reconsideration provides reason to revisit that issue,” the order said, rebutting their arguments
“Although Lake may have permissibly argued that an inference could be made that some ballots were added, there is no evidence that 35,563 ballots were and, more to the point here, this was certainly disputed by the Respondents,” it added. “The representation that this was an ‘undisputed fact’ is therefore unequivocally false.”
An attorney for Lake, Kurt Olsen, disputed the $2,000 fine. “We respectfully disagree with the Court’s holding but look forward to presenting our case at trial,” Olsen told the news website Axios, referring to the upcoming trial.
In response to the court ruling last week, Lake suggested that the main story was that the challenge to signature verification in procedures on early ballots can be probed.
The Kari Lake War Room Twitter wrote that “the media’s narrative is about (minor) sanctions over a semantic dispute and not Kari’s huge victory,” adding: “The Arizona Supreme Court has given us the go ahead to start our investigation of the signature verification process. We will expose Maricopa County’s House of Cards.”
Last month, Lake suggested that she may pursue another election campaign and signaled that she may aim for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.). Sinema has not publicly announced her reelection campaign but recently told media outlets that she wouldn’t join the Republican Party, coming months after she left the Democrats.
“People keep asking me about my future. But I am laser-focused on seeing my court case through to the end. That’s my present. As for the future? I can promise you that I’m not stepping out of the political arena anytime soon. Not until I put the people of Arizona First,” she wrote on Twitter several weeks ago.
But in an interview with OANN, Lake told the network that she is “seriously considering a run for Senate, yes absolutely.” She added, “Just because they stole an election … we’re so dangerous to them, I’m so dangerous to the status quo and this rotten swamp that they’re willing to steal an election to stop me and our movement. I’m not letting them get away with that. We’re not going away.”
Lake has claimed that internal polls show that she would defeat Sinema and the Democrat challenger, Rep. Reuben Gallego (D-Ariz.).