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AZ Senate rocked by claims of election violations, as Lake presses appeal in challenge to 2022 vote

State Senate Elections Committee hearing testimony from election integrity groups alleging maladministration of elections in Maricopa County.

Published: February 1, 2023 8:37pm

Updated: February 2, 2023 1:26pm

The Arizona Court of Appeals held a private conference Wednesday in Kari Lake's election challenge, as a state Senate panel is hearing explosive allegations of 2022 election failures in Maricopa County, and the Democrat Secretary of State seeks to have Lake, the 2022 GOP nominee for governor, prosecuted for tweeting evidence from the public Senate hearings of mismatched ballot signatures.

The appeals court's conference was regarding Lake's appeal of a December decision in Maricopa County Superior Court rejecting her election lawsuit against county election officials and Gov. Katie Hobbs. Lake's suit alleged that numerous irregularities in the 2022 gubernatorial election, including election machine issues in nearly 60% of the county's 115 vote centers, effectively suppressed heavily Republican Election Day vote.

The court reviewed Lake's case two days after she was separately referred for criminal prosecution by Democratic Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes to Attorney General Kris Mayes regarding a Lake tweet about Senate testimony on the improper counting of ballots with mismatched signatures.

"Today's Senate Testimony CONFIRMS nearly 40,000 ballots illegally counted (10% of the signatures reviewed)," Lake tweeted on Jan. 23. "I think all the 'Election Deniers' out there deserve an apology."

Lake included a graphic displaying a sampling of ballots that were counted despite being signed in a hand that appeared to differ sharply from the voter's signature in the voter registration database.

The signatures that Lake posted were shared in a presentation to the Arizona state Senate Elections Committee the day she tweeted them.

On Monday, Fontes wrote in a letter to Mayes that Lake may have committed a class 6 felony by posting voter signatures online.

"This is becoming all too common in politics — another attempt to weaponize the justice system with a phony allegation against a Republican," Lake attorney Tim LaSota fired back on Wednesday. "Adrian Fontes selectively quotes the statute in an attempt to distort the law and smear Kari Lake in the process. Kris Mayes should immediately say that she will have no part in this shameful, disgusting effort.

"This information came from the Arizona Senate investigation on acceptance of clearly mismatched signatures on early ballots, and Kari Lake has an absolute right under the First Amendment to republish the information presented to the Senate."

The Arizona state Senate Elections Committee, chaired by Republican state Sen. Wendy Rogers, has been hearing testimony since last week from election integrity groups regarding the administration of elections in Maricopa County.

During a hearing last week on 2022 election irregularities, Shelby Busch, the cofounder of We the People AZ, testified before the committee that 47,366 of verified voter signatures reviewed by her group didn't meet the basic Arizona Secretary of State standards, showing pictures of the signatures in her presentation.

Busch's group was commissioned by outgoing state Senate President Karen Fann to submit public records requests to the Maricopa County Elections Department. We the People AZ investigated both the 2020 and 2022 elections in the county.

Busch also reported that 217,305 ballots of the 464,926 ballots fed into tabulators on Election Day in Maricopa County in 2022 were rejected.

On Monday, Busch told the committee that her group found multiple violations of state election law by the county. The alleged infractions include excessive ballot adjudication; the effective disenfranchisement of thousands of (mostly Republican) voters on Election Day; and around 300,000 ballots that didn't have chain of custody.

Busch found, for example, that the number of ballots referred to a bipartisan board for adjudication due to missing information or an overvote jumped sharply in the last two election cycles. While the normal rate of adjudication isn't greater than 4%, the percentage rose to 11.9% in 2020, then 14.36% in 2022.

She testified that 64% of the 4,021 people waiting in lines of 85 or more people when the polls closed at 7 p.m. never got to vote.

Heather Honey, the founder of election integrity watchdog Verify Vote, testified that there was a lack of chain of custody for around 300,000 Early Voting ballots dropped off in drop boxes on Election Day. Honey previously gave similar testimony during Lake's election trial in December.

Technical problems at vote centers on Election Day are a central focus of Lake's lawsuit. At her rally in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Sunday, she revealed more on what her team has found.

Lake showed a heat map that hangs in the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center that represented 2020 Republican in-person Election Day and early voting turnout and overlaid it with pins indicating where vote centers experienced major election machine malfunctions on Election Day in 2022. Most of the problematic vote centers were in deep red, or Republican, areas of the county.

"Coincidence??" Lake tweeted with pictures of the map with the pins on Wednesday. "Look how perfectly Election Day Polling FAILURES on November 8th match up with the REPUBLICAN heat map."

Maricopa County didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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