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 ruling, 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.
In a 10-page ruling, Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson acknowledged “the anger and frustration of voters who were subjected to inconvenience and confusion at voter centers as technical problems arose” in this year’s election.
But he said his duty was “not solely to incline an ear to public outcry,” and noted that, in seeking to overturn Katie Hobbs’s victory by a 17,117-vote margin, Ms. Lake was pursuing a remedy that appeared unprecedented.
“A court setting such a margin aside, as far as the Court is able to determine, has never been done in the history of the United States,” Judge Thompson wrote.
He went on to rule flatly that Ms. Lake and the witnesses she called had failed to provide evidence of intentional misconduct that changed the election’s outcome.
“Plaintiff has no free-standing right to challenge election results based upon what Plaintiff believes — rightly or wrongly — went awry on Election Day,” the judge wrote. “She must, as a matter of law, prove a ground that the legislature has provided as a basis for challenging an election.”
Undaunted, Ms. Lake insisted her case had “provided the world with evidence that proves our elections are run outside of the law,” and said she would appeal “for the sake of restoring faith and honesty in our elections.”
Ms. Lake, a former Phoenix television news anchor, lostto Ms. Hobbs, a Democrat who is the Arizona secretary of state, andwho rose to national prominence when she resisted efforts by Trump loyalists to overturn the vote in 2020.
The Aftermath of the 2022 Midterm Elections
A moment of reflection. In the aftermath of the midterms, Democrats and Republicans face key questions about the future of their parties. With the House and Senate now decided, here’s where things stand:
Biden’s tough choice. President Biden, who had the best midterms of any president in 20 years as Democrats maintained a narrow hold on the Senate, feels buoyant after the results. But as he nears his 80th birthday, he confronts a decision on whether to run again.
Is Trump’s grip loosening? Ignoring Republicans’ concerns that he was to blame for the party’s weak midterms showing, Donald J. Trump announced his third bid for the presidency. But some of his staunchest allies are already inching away from him.
G.O.P leaders face dissent. After a poor midterms performance, Representative Kevin McCarthy and Senator Mitch McConnell faced threats to their power from an emboldened right flank. Will the divisions in the party’s ranks make the G.O.P.-controlled House an unmanageable mess?
A new era for House Democrats. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to serve in the post and the face of House Democrats for two decades, will not pursue a leadership post in the next Congress, paving the way for fresher faces at the top of the party.
Divided government. What does a Republican-controlled House and a Democratic-run Senate mean for the next two years? Most likely a return to the gridlock and brinkmanship that have defined a divided federal government in recent years.
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.
On Monday, the judge had 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
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.
But Judge Thompson ruled that Ms. Lake came 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 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.
Judge Thompson wrote that even Mr. Parikh had acknowledged that voters who faced mechanical snags still had their votes counted. The “printer failures did not actually affect the results of the election,” he wrote.
Other witnesses for Ms. Lake sought to portray the problems on Election Day as causing longer lines than the county acknowledged. 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.
Judge Thompson dismissed the pollster’s whole line of argument. “Election contests are decided by votes, not by polling responses,” he wrote.
Ms. Lake’s lawyers and witnesses also sought to raise doubts about county procedures that ensure security throughout the vote-counting process.
Mr. Jarrett, however, detailed extensive security procedures, including the sealing and documentation of batches of ballots, and insisted that they 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 declared 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.