Kari Lake might get to inspect small number of ballots
Kari Lake might get a chance next week to inspect a small number of ballots cast in Maricopa County in the 2022 midterm election, a judge ordered Friday.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson granted Lake's request for her yet-to-be-named representative to inspect 50 ballots cast at six different voting centers that were printed by the ballot-on-demand printers on Election Day; 50 ballot-on-demand-printed ballots from Election Day that were marked as spoiled; and 50 early voting ballots from six separate batches of ballots. All of the ballots are to be randomly selected by Lake's representative.
Thompson denied Lake's request to inspect 50 ballot envelopes from early voting ballots, saying inspection of ballot envelopes is not allowed by state election contest statutes.
If the case isn't dismissed before then, ballot inspection is set for Tuesday morning.
Lake has said that she wants to inspect signatures on the ballot envelopes, since her suit claims, without evidence, that the county allowed ballots with signatures that didn't match those of the voter to be unlawfully counted.
The court also required Lake to pay a $300 bond to access the ballots and stipulate that the inspection will not interfere with the integrity of the ballots or the ongoing recount in three races in Maricopa County. The order specifies that, if the judge dismisses the case, the order to allow Lake to inspect the ballots will be dismissed, as well.
In addition to Lake's representative, the court will appoint a person from the defense team and another selected by the court to take part in the ballot inspection.
Lake's lawsuit seeks to overturn the results of the election for Arizona governor, which Lake, a Trump-backed Republican, lost to Democrat Katie Hobbs by more than 17,000 votes — almost 0.7 percentage points.
The sprawling suit claims that the midterm election in Maricopa County was marred by "intentional misconduct," including the "hacking" of election equipment to specifically disenfranchise Republican voters. In it, Lake also says that hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots were cast, while providing no evidence of that.
The defendants in the case, including Hobbs, the members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and other county officials, have all filed motions to dismiss the suit. Lake's attorneys have until noon Saturday to respond to those motions.
Lake's lawyer, Scottsdale divorce attorney Bryan Blehm, said in his petition to inspect the ballots that Lake "cannot properly prepare for trial without such an inspection."
But Thomas Liddy, an attorney for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, said that Blehm provided no good reason for why his team would need to inspect the ballots to prepare for the trial.
While Lake's lawyers didn't explain what exactly they would be looking for when inspecting the ballots, Thompson said in his order that providing a specific reason wasn't necessary.
Blehm mentioned in the petition the issues that some Maricopa County voting centers had with their ballot-on-demand printers on Election Day. Those issues meant some tabulators were unable to read those ballots, which caused delays and frustration for voters. But Blehm didn't explain in the petition how inspecting the ballots would give Lake any insight into those issues.
Lake's lawyers did not respond to a question from the Arizona Mirror asking what evidence they planned to look for when inspecting the ballots.
In its response to the petition, Liddy speculated that Lake might want to check to see whether some of the ballots would be read or rejected by the county's tabulators. But the county has already admitted that some of them could not be read, and Lake would need access to both the ballots and the tabulators to check that.
Lake's attorneys did not request access to the tabulators, and the county asserted that the election contest statutes would not allow them to do so.
In response to Lake's petition, Andy Gaona, an attorney for Secretary of State and Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs, argued that because Lake's entire election contest suit was invalid, the request to inspect the ballots was also invalid.
Thompson answered that these were separate issues and that he would rule separately on the motions to dismiss the case.
Oral arguments are set for Dec. 19 on the motions to dismiss the case, with evidentiary hearings tentatively scheduled for Dec. 20 and 21.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.