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Day 2 of Kari Lake election trial marked by competing ‘expert’ testimony

Day 2 of Kari Lake election trial marked by competing ‘expert’ testimony

  • Kari Lake at a campaign event in Tucson.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comKari Lake at a campaign event in Tucson.

The judge in Kari Lake’s election lawsuit challenging the outcome of the midterm governor’s race had not issued a decision as of early Friday morning, after both sides rested their cases on Thursday. 

Lake is a Trump-endorsed Republican who lost the Arizona governor’s race to Democrat Katie Hobbs by around 17,000 votes. 

During the two-day trial, her attorneys attempted to prove that a Maricopa County employee intentionally tampered with Election Day ballot-on-demand printers at voting centers, causing frustration and delays for voters and poll workers when tabulators couldn’t read the ballots. 

Lake’s team also worked to convince Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson that the county failed to follow chain-of-custody rules for early ballots dropped off on Election Day, leading to an untold number of ballots being illegally and intentionally added to the count.

The second day of Lake’s trial was marked by competing testimony from two experts, pollster Richard Baris for Lake and University of Wisconsin political science professor Kenneth Mayer for the defense. 

Baris has worked in polling since 2014 and studied political science but has no academic background in polling while Mayer has a doctorate in political science from Yale, a background in applied mathematics and has been working in polling for around 30 years. 

Baris is the director of Big Data Poll, which has been given an “F” rating by FiveThirtyEight, a site that rates hundreds of pollsters based on things like transparency of their methods, bias and the accuracy of their polls. He worked in election forecasting prior to that. 

Based on his exit poll that included a sample of around 800 people in Maricopa County, Baris said he determined that between 25,000-40,000 people didn’t vote in the county on Election Day because of issues at the polls. Only about 160 voters in Maricopa County actually responded to the poll, while he expected around 250. He believes these people either left after waiting in or seeing long lines at the polls or never went to voting locations at all after hearing about the lines. 

“Republicans were absolutely disproportionately impacted by this,” Baris told the court, because a disproportionately large number of Republicans voted in person on Election Day. 

Baris, who conducted his poll independently of the Lake campaign, contacted potential voters through random sampling ahead of Election Day. Of those who told them they planned to vote, early voters completed the survey at a rate of 93%, while Election Day voters only completed it at a rate of 72%. 

Baris said that the large discrepancy in return rates for his poll was because many of the people who planned to vote on Election Day actually didn’t vote. He based his opinion on the outcome of his poll, which had a confidence level of +-3.5%, as well as projections for voter turnout in Maricopa County and historic voting records of those polled.

“These people didn’t complete this questionnaire because they didn’t vote,” Baris said. 

Baris said that without printer issues in Maricopa County that caused tabulators to reject ballots, Lake would have won the race for governor. 

“I have no doubt,” Baris said. “I believe it that strongly.”

Mayer dismissed Baris’ conclusions saying they were based on pure speculation. 

“There is simply no data to support any of those claims and actually quite a bit of data to suggest those things actually did not happen,” Mayer said. 

Upon inspecting data from the midterm in Maricopa County, Mayer found that 84 voters who couldn’t get their ballot tabulated or didn’t want to wait in line checked out of one polling center and went to another to vote. Another 120 left their voting center without checking out and cast a provisional ballot at a different voter center, since records showed that they already voted because they didn’t check out from the initial center. All but 13 of those total ballots were counted, he said, indicating that a large number of voters were not disenfranchised by issues on Election Day. 

Also on Thursday, Co-Maricopa County Elections Directors Scott Jarrett and Reynaldo Valenzuela testified for the defense. Valenzuela oversees early voting while Jarrett is in charge of Election Day voting. 

Valenzuela went through the county’s procedures for maintaining chain-of-custody for early voting ballots, saying he knew nothing of allegations from a witness for Lake that testified earlier who said employees of Runbeck, a county contractor for election services, had added their ballots illegally to those being counted and scanned at their facility. 

He attested that each early ballot envelope has a unique bar code that identifies it as belonging to a registered voter, and added that signatures on those ballots are verified before the ballot is tabulated. 

Jarrett explained the causes for some of the issues that voters saw at polling places in Maricopa County on Election Day. The county is still in the middle of a root cause analysis of printer issues, but he believes that a significant number of issues were caused by heat settings on the printers’ fusers that were too low, causing speckled timing marks on the back of ballots that the tabulators couldn’t read. 

He also addressed a claim made by Lake’s cybersecurity expert, Clay Parikh, a day earlier. Parikh testified that 14 out of 15 ballots he examined that had been rejected by tabulators at voting centers on Election Day had a 19-inch image projected onto 20-inch paper, which caused tabulators to be unable to read the ballots. Parikh said this could only have happened if someone did it intentionally. However, the county has said that the majority of the ballots rejected by tabulators at vote centers on Election Day were later accepted by the more sensitive tabulators at Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center. 

Jarrett attested that all of the ballots this year were designed to be 20 inches, and that he believes the smaller ballot image happened after techs visited the voting centers to try to fix the printer problems and changed the printer settings to “fit to print” while troubleshooting. 

While Jarrett said that only happened at three vote centers and only impacted around 1,300 ballots, Parikh said he found 19-inch ballots that came from six voting locations. 

Kurt Olsen, a lawyer for Lake, excoriated Jarrett for not mentioning the “print to fit” issue when he was questioned in the trial the day earlier, when he was adamant that there were no 19-inch ballots designed for this election. 

During closing arguments on Thursday Olsen said that the defense’s case just didn’t make sense. He said they downplayed Election Day issues and misstated the severity of problems at the polls. 

“This is just flat wrong what is going on here,” Olsen said. “The law is here for a reason. The law is here to protect the integrity of the vote. 

“There’s not one person who’s watching this who’s not shaking their head right now,” he said.

Abha Khanna, a Seattle lawyer representing Hobbs, said that Lake’s team had not provided evidence of any of the crimes they accused the defendants of committing. 

“They never had the evidence to back them up,” she said. 

Lake’s lawyers never provided anything beyond speculation that a county employee had intentionally tampered with ballot-on-demand printers, or that chain-of-custody issues resulted in enough illegal ballots being counted that it would overturn Lake’s loss, Khanna said. 

“Kari Lake Lost the election because at the end of day, she received fewer votes than Katie Hobbs,” Khanna said. “Katie Hobbs is the next governor. The people of Arizona said so.”

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.

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