Friday, June 14, 2024

Kari Lake Exposes Maricopa’s Failed Signature Verification Process on Day 1 of New Trial

'There's simply no way to review signatures with respect to procedures...'

(Headline USAMaricopa County has a failed process for verifying thousands of ballot signatures that even some of its own workers question, attorneys for Kari Lake, the 2022 Republican candidate for Arizona governor, argued in court Wednesday.

Lake’s lawyers spent most of the first day of a three-day trial showing video and taking testimony from two previous signature screeners who alleged election workers were overwhelmed while trying to verify the massive number of mail-in ballots and provisional ballots resulting from systemic polling place failures on Election Day.

“There’s simply no way to review signatures with respect to procedures,” Kurt Olsen, one of Lake’s attorneys said.

The state—whose top election official at the time, then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, was also the Democrat gubernatorial candidate—took longer than every other state of equivalent size to count and certify the ballots, fueling rampant speculation that Hobbs and her team were waiting to arrive at the desired outcome.

The eventual outcome, certified by Hobbs, broke with 17,117 votes in Hobbs’s favor, or 0.67% of the total number of overall votes.

Lake listened to the proceedings from a seat in the back of the courtroom but did not speak. She left two hours into the hearing.

The Arizona Supreme Court last week revived her challenge to the implementation of signature-verification procedures on early ballots in Maricopa County, home to more than 60% of the state’s voters.

The case now hinges on newly available evidence that had not been turned over when the lower-court judge initially dismissed the claim.

On Twitter, some supporters provided photographic evidence from the 2020 election showing the sloppy signature verification standard that was applied in the state, when Joe Biden allegedly won by a margin of 10,457 votes.

Superior Court Judge Peter A. Thompson said in a ruling Monday that Lake alleges Maricopa County officials failed to perform any higher level signature verifications on mail-in ballots that had been flagged by lower level screeners for any inconsistencies.

In a subsequent decision, Thompson said Lake also is challenging any alleged violations of signature verification policies by lower level screeners, too.

The video footage shown by Lake’s legal team came from a Maricopa County camera feed that purportedly shows a signature verified incorrectly and hastily by a worker.

Reynaldo “Rey” Valenzuela, Maricopa County director of elections, testified that the temporary worker simply didn’t grasp the technological skills needed for the job and he was re-assigned elsewhere. Signature verifiers are also randomly audited.

“We review them for consistency,” Valenzuela said. “Was there some sort of inconsistency where someone did all good [signatures] or all bad?”

A lower-level worker also testified that higher-level signature reviewers were overwhelmed and kicked back ballot affidavit envelopes that seemed questionable.

Three workers on lower-level signature verification who filed declarations in court on Lake’s behalf have said they experienced rejection rates due to mismatched signatures on 15% to 40% of the ballots they encountered.

Attorneys for Arizona election officials said the workers’ speculation on signature verification efforts does not amount to a violation of the law or misconduct by election workers—and raised questions about whether the three workers could know the outcome of the specific ballots they had flagged.

Lake isn’t contesting whether voters’ signatures on ballot envelopes matched those in their voting records.

In a ruling Monday night, Thompson refused to throw out Lake’s claim.

Lake faces a high bar in proving not only her allegation over signature verification efforts but also that it affected the outcome of her race.

Lake’s lawyers say there was a flood of mail-in ballots in Maricopa County at a time when there were too few workers to verify ballot signatures. Her attorneys say the county ultimately accepted thousands of ballots that had been rejected earlier by workers for having mismatched signatures.

By reviving the claim, the Arizona Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision that found Lake waited too long to raise it.

Earlier in her lawsuit, Lake had focused on problems with ballot printers at some polling places in Maricopa County.

The defective printers produced ballots that were too light to be read by the on-site tabulators at polling places. Lines were backed up in some areas amid the confusion. Lake alleged ballot printer problems were the result of intentional misconduct.

County officials insisted that everyone had a chance to vote and all ballots were counted because those affected by the printers were taken to more sophisticated counters at election headquarters.

The trial beginning Wednesday will be the second conducted in Lake’s election challenge.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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