The Arizona Supreme Court ordered a trial court Thursday to proceed with Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s election lawsuit challenging Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs’ win in November.
In March, the Supreme Court affirmed most of the trial court’s and the Arizona Court of Appeals’ rulings in favor of Hobbs, but did remand Lake’s claim that Maricopa County did not follow signature verification requirements to the trial court.
One of Lake’s allegations rejected by the justices was “the undisputed fact that 35,563 unaccounted for ballots were added to the total [number] of ballots” after they were delivered to the third-party processing facility used by the county, Runbeck Election Services.
“The record does not reflect that 35,563 unaccounted ballots were added to the total count,” the court stated in its March order. The justices added that sanctions sought by defendants Hobbs, Maricopa County and Secretary of State Adrian Fontes against Lake’s suit would be “considered in due course.”
On Thursday, the court sanctioned Lake $2,000 regarding the ballot claim, stating it was based on an estimate of the number of mail-in ballots received by Runbeck Election Day versus the number it finally reported tallying.
Lake had argued the discrepancy was significant and deserved further review because it exceeded Hobbs’ approximately 17,000-vote margin of victory.
The Supreme Court denied the defendants’ request for attorneys fees.
The trial court judge had been awaiting a ruling on sanctions before proceeding with Lake’s case, according to Just the News.
Arizona-based journalist Rachel Alexander — who served as a prosecutor in the Arizona attorney general’s office and as a Maricopa County attorney — tweeted Thursday, “Courts never award sanctions for only the small amount of $2,000 – especially in huge cases like this. This is actually a very good sign for Kari Lake, the fact the court is really trying to duck sanctioning her attorneys.”
Her tweet came in response to attorney Robert Barnes, who tweeted, “AZ Supreme Court denied sanctions for attorneys fees. AZ Supreme Court required small $2K court fee over use of word ‘undisputed’ in 1 sentence. Very minor.”
I have an article coming out shortly on this. Courts never award sanctions for only the small amount of $2,000 – especially in huge cases like this. This is actually a very good sign for Kari Lake, the fact the court is really trying to duck sanctioning her attorneys. I’m seeing… https://t.co/M4q5WsqXas
— Rachel Alexander (@Rach_IC) May 5, 2023
Multiple media outlets reported that the $2,000 sanction was a major blow to Lake.
The Associated Press headlined, “Kari Lake’s lawyers fined in failed Arizona election lawsuit.” NBC News reported, “Kari Lake’s lawyers sanctioned over false election claims,” and Axios said, “Arizona high court fines Kari Lake lawyers for ‘unequivocally false’ claim.”
Lake’s campaign tweeted Thursday, “The media has their narrative. We have the truth. We look forward to showing the public that the signature verification process in Maricopa County is an absolute sham. We’re moving forward.”
The media has their narrative. We have the truth.
We look forward to showing the public that the signature verification process in Maricopa County is an absolute sham.
We’re moving forward.
— Kari Lake War Room (@KariLakeWarRoom) May 5, 2023
Lake attorney Kurt Olsen celebrated the court’s decision in March to remand his client’s signature verification claim back to the trial court for further consideration.
“There are literally over 100,000 ballots in question because of invalid signatures that were accepted and tabulated,” Olsen said at the time.
“This is not a challenge about simply a few bad signatures. … This is about a systemic failure of the entire signature verification process, which is allowing tens of thousands of ballots with signatures that don’t match the record on file. And this is the only security feature for mail-in voting,” he added.
— Kari Lake War Room (@KariLakeWarRoom) May 2, 2023
Lake’s legal filing to the Supreme Court stated that “whistleblowers conducting signature verification at [the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center] came forward with the evidence that Maricopa disregarded Arizona law and allowed tens of thousands of uncured ballots with nonmatching signatures to be counted.”
“Curing” ballots involves reaching out to voters whose ballots would be rejected due to errors in order to confirm the voter’s identity.
“So the question really becomes, who is mailing in all these votes with signatures that don’t match the voter signature on file?” Olsen asked. “It really goes to the heart of a critical issue for the security of mail-in voting.”