As 71% in poll say Maricopa County issues tipped Senate race, judge sanctions Kari Lake lawyers

"It is very very rare to sanction a party in public interest suits," Kari Lake's campaign said in a statement.

Published: December 2, 2022 7:44pm

Updated: December 2, 2022 11:14pm

Even as a new poll finds a whopping majority of likely voters believe Election Day problems in Maricopa County likely swayed the outcome of the Senate election in Arizona, a federal judge imposed rare sanctions against attorneys representing GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake in her legal challenge to the county's administration of the 2022 election.

A recent Rasmussen Reports poll found that 71% of likely U.S. voters "believe it's Likely — including 40% who say it's Very Likely — that problems with the election in Maricopa County affected the outcome of the Senate election in Arizona." Among Republicans, 52% said "very likely," and 27% said "somewhat likely." Meanwhile, 23% of Democrats said "very likely," while 42% said "somewhat likely."

A total of 23% of voters do not believe it's likely that the issues in Maricopa County affected the election.

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly defeated GOP Senate nominee Blake Masters 51% to 47%.

Following widespread reports of malfunctioning election machines, repeatedly rejected votes and hours-long wait times at polling centers in Maricopa County, Lake said the election was "botched and broken beyond repair."

"This isn't about Republicans or Democrats," Lake said in a statement. "This is about our sacred right to vote, a right that many voters were, sadly, deprived of on November 8th."

According to the Rasmussen Reports survey, 72% of likely voters agree with Lake's statement, while only 18% disagree. Among Republicans, 60% strongly agree and 18% somewhat agree with Lake's statement, while Democrats were more evenly split, with 35% strongly agreeing and 34% somewhat agreeing.

Lake, the consistent leader in preelection opinion polling, lost the Arizona gubernatorial election by less than 17,000 votes, or less than 0.7%.

The survey was conducted on Nov. 27-28 of 750 likely U.S. voters.

In a related legal ruling on Thursday, an Obama-appointed judge ordered sanctions against Lake's lawyers for the "baseless" lawsuit filed by Lake and Arizona GOP Secretary of State nominee state Rep. Mark Finchem against Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Alleging there were issues with the election machines in the county in the August primary, the complaint sought the use of paper ballots for the 2022 general election instead.

After ruling for the defendants on Aug. 26, U.S. District Judge John Tuchi slapped plaintiffs' counsel with sanctions, opining in scalding language "that Plaintiffs made false, misleading, and unsupported factual assertions in their [first Amended Complaint] and [Motion for Preliminary Injunction] and that their claims for relief did not have an adequate factual or legal basis grounded in a reasonable pre-filing inquiry."

The sanctions require the lawyers to pay the Maricopa County defendants' attorneys' fees. The defendants are to file with the court the amount for attorneys' fees, and the plaintiffs will then be allowed to respond.

The lawyers "acted at least recklessly in unreasonably and vexatiously multiplying the proceedings by seeking a preliminary injunction based on Plaintiffs' frivolous claims," the judge charged.

In explaining his rationale for his harsh action, the judge acknowledged he hoped to deflect scrutiny of election irregularities and deter efforts to seek transparency through the courts. 

"Imposing sanctions in this case is not to ignore the importance of putting in place procedures to ensure that our elections are secure and reliable," Tuchi said. "It is to make clear that the Court will not condone litigants ignoring the steps that Arizona has already taken toward this end and furthering false narratives that baselessly undermine public trust at a time of increasing disinformation about, and distrust in, the democratic process. It is to send a message to those who might file similarly baseless suits in the future."

"This case is not about money or gain," the Lake campaign responded in a statement to The Arizona Sun Times. "It was essentially a public interest lawsuit seeking electoral integrity. It is very very rare to sanction a party in public interest suits. All in all this reads like an angry Obama appointee who wants to send a message. The message is if you lose shut up and don’t come to court. The message is not that you lost a case or acted in bad faith."

The decision doesn't list the sanctioned attorneys, but Alan Dershowitz, Andrew Parker, and Kurt Olsen on Lake's legal team signed the opposition to Maricopa's request for sanctions.

"I have not challenged the results of any Arizona elections," Dershowitz told Law&Crime. "I have given legal advice about the future use of machine counting by companies that refuse to disclose the inner workings of their machines. I support transparency in elections."

At least 72 vote centers in Maricopa County experienced issues on Election Day, from ballots rejected by tabulators to improper checkout procedures and hours-long lines for voting, according to reporting by Republican election observers filed with the Arizona attorney general's office.

The attorney general's office raised concerns regarding the county's administration of the Nov. 8 election in a Nov. 19 letter to the Maricopa County Attorney inquiring into the widespread irregularities reported in the county on Election Day. The letter gave a deadline of Nov. 28 for the county to respond.

"The Elections Integrity Unit ('Unit') of the Arizona Attorney General's Office ('AGO') has received hundreds of complaints since Election Day pertaining to issues related to the administration of the 2022 General Election in Maricopa County," Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wright wrote.

"These complaints go beyond pure speculation, but include first-hand witness accounts that raise concerns regarding Maricopa's lawful compliance with Arizona election law," she said.

On Nov. 27, the county replied to the letter, saying that it followed the law on Election Day and the election problems were "regrettable." The county insisted, however, that "every lawful voter was still able to cast his or her ballot."

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors voted to certify its election on Monday, after listening to a flood of voter complaints regarding issues they experienced trying to vote on Election Day.

Cochise County was sued by Hobbs after its board of supervisors didn't certify the county's vote by the deadline for Arizona counties on Monday. On Thursday, a judge ruled that the county must certify by the end of the day, which the board of supervisors did.

There is currently a lawsuit against Hobbs and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to prevent state certification of the governor, U.S. Senate, attorney general and secretary of state elections.

Meanwhile, lawsuits brought by Lake and GOP attorney general nominee Abe Hamadeh cannot move forward until the state certifies the election.

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