Arizona Judge Rejects Kari Lake’s Effort to Overturn Her Election Loss


A state judge on Saturday rejected Kari Lake’s last-ditch effort to overturn her defeat in the Arizona governor’s race, dismissing for lack of evidence her last two claims of misconduct by Maricopa County election officials.

The order by Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson, after a two-day trial in Phoenix that ended Thursday, follows more than six weeks of claims by Ms. Lake, a Republican, that she was robbed of victory last month — assertions that echoed the false contention that was at the heart of her campaign: that an even larger theft had stolen the 2020 presidential election from Donald. J. Trump.

Ms. Lake and her supporters conjured up what they called a deliberate effort by election officials in Maricopa County, the state’s largest county, to disenfranchise her voters. But they never provided evidence of such intentional malfeasance, nor even evidence that any voters had been disenfranchised.

Ms. Lake has said she would appeal an unfavorable decision.

Ms. Lake, a former Phoenix television news anchor, lost by around 17,000 votes to Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who is the Arizona secretary of state, and who rose to national prominence when she resisted efforts by Trump loyalists to overturn the vote in 2020.

Ms. Lake’s legal challenge, brought against Maricopa County and Ms. Hobbs, was a rallying point for the election denial movement that grew out of Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept his defeat. Since Election Day, Ms. Lake has appeared twice alongside the former president at his Mar-a-Lago resort, vowing to fight on.

The verdict deals a blow to that movement’s efforts to challenge the results of the 2022 election. Republican candidates running on Mr. Trump’s false claims lost important races in battleground states and, according to postelection polls, generated an increase in confidence in the election system among both Democrats and Republicans.

According to Democracy Docket, a left-leaning election law group founded by the Democratic campaign lawyer Marc Elias, 15 lawsuits have been brought by candidates or their campaigns over federal, statewide and legislative races since this year’s election — a steep drop from the 36 filed in 2020, 16 of them on behalf of Mr. Trump and his campaign and more by his allies.

Some of the lawyers involved in those cases, such as Sidney Powell and Rudolph W. Giuliani, were later punished by courts for “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process” and “demonstrably false and misleading statements,” over the often conspiratorial and blatantly false claims they made in and out of court on behalf of Mr. Trump.

On Monday, the judge rejected eight of 10 claims by Ms. Lake, including a hodgepodge of conspiracy theories and vague allegations contained in a complaint filed earlier this month. He ruled that Ms. Lake could proceed on two counts, but set a high bar based on Arizona law.

To prevail on one claim, Ms. Lake needed to prove that a county election official had deliberately caused ballot printers to malfunction for the purpose of swaying election results, and that the outcome flipped as a result.

To prevail on the other, she needed to prove that officials had purposely violated chain-of-custody procedures for handling ballots and, again, that this noncompliance had swayed the election’s outcome.

Ms. Lake’s case appeared to come nowhere near meeting those benchmarks. No election official was ever identified as responsible for malfeasance, and no voters were identified as having been disenfranchised — let alone the thousands it would have taken to tip the outcome.

About the best Ms. Lake’s team was able to come up with was a cybersecurity specialist from Alabama, Clay Parikh — one of a number of people who have been working nationwide to promote election-denial theories — who testified that he had inspected some Arizona ballots and concluded that they were printing out 19-inch ballots on 20-inch paper.

“This could not be an accident,” Mr. Parikh said. But he could offer no more than theories to support his contention.

Mr. Parikh and others involved in Ms. Lake’s case have ties to Mike Lindell, the pillow manufacturer who is a central figure among election conspiracy theorists. Mr. Lindell has said he was helping to finance Ms. Lake’s legal challenge, and his own lawyer, Kurt Olsen, has led Ms. Lake’s legal team.

Testifying on Thursday, as thousands of people watched online, Maricopa County’s Election Day director, Scott Jarrett, said that the ballots Mr. Parikh had inspected all came from a few voting locations where technicians had mistakenly switched the settings of ballot printers in an effort to try to fix problems with printers that weren’t heating up properly.

Mr. Jarrett said only about 1,300 ballots were affected by the problems Mr. Parikh cited — and that they were still counted through a backup process. Mr. Jarrett stressed that, regardless of the printer malfunctions and any other issues that created lines at some voting locations, none of those were intentional and all voters were able to vote, one way or the other.

Other witnesses for Ms. Lake sought to portray the problems on Election Day as causing longer lines than the county claimed. One right-wing pollster cited data from his own exit poll as support for the idea that turnout must have been affected, because many people who had told him they planned to vote did not complete his survey.

But an expert testifying for the defense, Kenneth Mayer, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, called the claims made by Ms. Lake’s witnesses “pure speculation” and said their use of polling data was invalid.

“There’s no data to support any of those claims,” Mr. Mayer said. “There’s quite a bit of data to suggest that did not happen.”

Ms. Lake’s lawyers and witnesses also sought to raise doubts about county procedures that ensure security throughout the vote-counting process. One of their central contentions relied on a rough estimate an election official had given, at one point, of the number of mail-in ballots dropped off on Election Day.

That estimate was revised upward after all the ballots were counted on the premises of a third-party vendor. But Ms. Lake’s lawyers and witnesses suggested — but did not offer proof — that the vendor’s employees had wrongly inserted additional ballots into the process.

Mr. Jarrett, however, detailed extensive security procedures, including the sealing and documentation of batches of ballots, and insisted that proper procedures were followed. “If any ballots were inserted or rejected or lost in that process,” he testified, “we would know.”

Three other midterm election challenges in Arizona have also failed in court, including the dismissal on Friday of a challenge brought by Abraham Hamadeh, a Republican attorney general candidate whose 511-vote deficit to Kris Mayes, a Democrat, triggered a state-mandated recount.

Mr. Hamadeh had sued in Mohave County to have himself the winner. But during closing arguments in a trial, Mr. Hamadeh’s attorney, Timothy La Sota, admitted that he didn’t have any evidence of intentional misconduct or any vote discrepancies that would make up the gap between the candidates. He asked the judge to alter the vote count slightly, which the judge declined to do and dismissed the case.

Even then, Mr. Hamadeh blamed election officials, saying in a post on Twitter that they “failed democracy” and that he would decide “next steps” after the recount was completed.

Richard L. Hasen, an election law scholar and law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that the Maricopa trial was important in that it forced Ms. Lake to produce any evidence she had to back up her claims, which have provided considerable fuel for the election denier movement.

“This demonstrates that outlandish claims of fraud and intentional rigging of elections require actual proof in court,” Mr. Hasen said. “I’m glad she had her chance to bring evidence to court and have it fairly evaluated.”



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