By Caden Pearson
A judge overseeing an Arizona electoral lawsuit ruled on Friday that GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake may appoint an inspector to analyze a small selection of Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2022 midterm election.
The inspection may begin on Dec. 20, unless Lake’s lawsuit is dismissed beforehand, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson said in his ruling.
Lake, who filed a lawsuit on Dec. 9 (pdf) seeking to overturn the election for Arizona’s governor, petitioned the court to inspect a random selection of ballots cast in different Maricopa County voting centers on Nov. 8.
The lawsuit alleged that “hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots infected the election in Maricopa County.”
Bryan Blehm, Lake’s attorney, stated in his petition to see the ballots that Lake “cannot properly prepare for trial without such an inspection.”
The trial date is set for Dec. 20.
Petition to Inspect 150 Ballots
Thompson agreed that an inspector named by Lake may analyze 50 randomly selected “ballot-on-demand” (BOD) printed ballots; 50 “randomly selected early ballots;” and 50 “randomly selected BOD printed ballots that were marked spoiled” on Election Day.
The ballots will be randomly selected from ballots cast at six separate vote centers in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous electorate.
The only request Thompson rejected was to inspect 50 “randomly selected early ballot envelopes for early ballots.” The judge said state election contest statutes prohibit scrutiny of ballot envelopes.
“It is ordered that Lake’s petition to inspect is granted,” Thompson wrote in his ruling (pdf).
Thompson ruled that the examination will be subject to requirements, including that it does not disrupt the integrity of any votes or their storage or maintenance, does not reveal the name of any voter, and does not interfere with any current recounts.
The ballots will be analyzed by an inspector whom Lake had until midday Friday to nominate. The court will also choose a member of the defense team and another person chosen by the court to participate in the ballot inspection.
In arguing against Lake’s petition to inspect the ballots, Andy Gaona, a lawyer at Arizona Secretary of State’s office, contended that because Lake’s complaint was invalid, the request to see the ballots was also invalid.
Thompson responded that these were different matters and that he would rule on the motions to dismiss the case separately.
Lake contends she won the midterm elections and has requested the court to invalidate the results and declare her the winner or call for a new vote, saying that issues at polling places in Maricopa County on Election Day tainted the outcome and disenfranchised voters.
Election data shows that Lake, a local television host backed by former President Donald Trump, lost to Democrat Katie Hobbs, the current Arizona secretary of state and governor-elect, by about 17,000 votes or around 0.6 percentage points.
However, Lake’s legal team alleges that 135,000 illegitimate ballots were tallied, greatly exceeding Hobbs’s 17,000-ballot margin of victory.
According to the lawsuit, Maricopa County voters were disadvantaged on Election Day by long lines and printer problems.
Maricopa County officials, including Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates and Recorder Stephen Richer, admitted at a press conference that printer issues prompted some voters to cast votes in dropboxes but subsequently stated that no voters were disenfranchised.
Earlier this week, Thompson informed all parties involved in the lawsuit, including Hobbs, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, and other county officials, that the legal matter “will be set on an accelerated basis” after the court “reviewed” Lake’s “verified statement of election contest.”
Attorneys for Hobbs and Maricopa County asked the judge to dismiss Lake’s challenge during the hearing on Tuesday.
“The secretary does believe that the court will be able to dispose of this case in its entirety on motions to dismiss without the need for an evidentiary hearing,” Gaona said during the hearing, according to local media.
Attorneys for Hobbs and the other defendants claimed that Lake’s lawsuit was based on “pure speculation about what might have happened” during Election Day.
Claims in Lake’s lawsuit are “insufficient for a court to reduce the vote totals in the official certification and alter the outcome of the election,” the motion further said (pdf).
Lake’s attorneys have until Saturday at noon to respond to the motions.
Lake has said her legal defense will include four whistleblowers testifying, including someone from Runbeck Election Services, a vendor used by Maricopa County.
“There are a plethora of problems that went down in Maricopa County, and if somebody doesn’t stand up and say, ‘We can’t have our elections being run this way,’ then we’ll never have another fair election,” Lake told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.
If Lake can prove that anything close to 135,000 illegal ballots were counted, that would rise above the margin for Hobbs’s victory.