WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, Dec. 19, an Arizona judge heard arguments in an election contest brought by Kari Lake, the failed Republican candidate for Arizona governor and an election denier, against Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D), the Maricopa County recorder, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the Maricopa County director of elections. Specifically, the defendants, through their attorneys (hereafter referred to as Gov.-elect Hobbs’ attorney, Secretary Hobbs’ attorney and Maricopa County’s attorney) argued that the contest should be dismissed while Kari Lake’s attorney (hereafter referred to as Lake’s attorney) argued that the case should go to trial this week.
Gov.-elect Hobbs’ attorney opened with the argument by stating that the case should be dismissed based on laches (the legal principle that a lawsuit has to be brought in a timely manner). She then argued that Lake’s claims do not meet election contest standards under Arizona law because an election contest may only be brought if there is fraud, misconduct or if illegal votes impacted the outcome of the election and if these alleged errors would have changed the results. Since Lake explicitly states in her complaint that she is not alleging fraud, Gov.-elect Hobbs’ attorney argued the fraud point is moot in this case. Gov.-elect Hobbs’ attorney argued that, in most election contests, “the contest hinges on 10, 20 or 50 votes that decide an election and whether they were lawfully counted or impermissibly excluded. Here, by contrast, Ms. Lake must overcome over 17,000 votes.” Gov.-elect Hobbs’ attorney concluded by rebutting Lake’s allegations of rot in the electoral system by stating: “If there’s anything rotten in Arizona, it is what this contest represents. For the past several years, our democracy and its basic guiding principles have been under sustained assault from candidates who just cannot or will not accept the fact that they lost.”
Next, the judge heard from Maricopa County’s attorney, who also argued that the case should be dismissed. He argued that Lake did not make “a single allegation of misconduct that’s supported by a single fact.” Additionally, he argued that any litigation about election procedures should have been brought before the election, not after. Maricopa County’s attorney then turned to rebutting the validity of the affidavits that Lake provided. He explained that although voters may not have been “happy” with their experience, these voters still successfully cast their ballots. He argued that it is offensive to describe what Maricopa County voters allegedly experienced as “voter suppression.”
Then, the judge heard from the attorney representing Secretary Hobbs in her official capacity. He argued that if this case moved forward to trial, it would “open the litigation flood gates” and every future election could “be contested and proceed to trial.”
Next, the judge heard from Lake’s attorney (who might be remembered by his stint representing the controversial Cyber Ninjas during Arizona’s 2020 election “audit”), who argued that Maricopa County failed to follow its election procedures and chain of custody rules for ballots. He claimed that “mysteriously, 25,000 extra ballots appeared” in Maricopa County after the election and these ballots are “outcome determinative.” He then made the argument that Maricopa County officials are engaged in a “secret censorship operation set up by the government that would make Orwell blush.” In support of this allegation of a conspiracy, Lake’s attorney suggested that “you have the federal government creating an election misinformation reporting portal, specifically for state and local election officials, which ties them directly with social media companies like Twitter and Facebook and allows these election officials to immediately flag and take down information to censor people that they find objectionable. They call it misinformation, but this is a secret operation” that is allegedly an “affront to the First Amendment.” Lake’s attorney then referred to a pollster for the Epoch Times who said the total number of disenfranchised voters in Maricopa County would be “outcome determinative.”
Next, Lake’s attorney argued that signature matching for mail-in ballots is both deeply flawed but necessary to prevent voter fraud. He argued that, after the 2000 presidential election, the 2005 Carter-Baker Commission determined that mail-in voting was one of the “most likely areas of voter fraud.” Notably, former President Jimmy Carter has since refuted these claims and said that the commission’s report on mail-in voting is outdated and that mail-in voting is a secure and safe voting method. Lake’s attorney argued that their account of Election Day “paints and tells a completely different picture than what defendants have tried to portray.” He claimed that he has access to “screenshots…of text messages…where [election workers were] exclaiming ‘I’m having a 911 here. You know there are lines are out the door over 100 people; get me coffee please.’” Lake’s attorney then argued that this is indicative of systemic issues during the 2022 election, concluding that “we have shown [in] this election that there are 25,000 unexplained votes” and that Lake’s “complaint is well sourced, it’s under oath, it’s detailed…You should accept all those allegations as true…and not dismiss this case.”
Gov.-elect Hobbs’ attorney began her rebuttal by reiterating that the Arizona Supreme Court has held that “honest mistakes, even gross irregularities, absent a showing of fraud or that they actually affected the outcome of the election are not sufficient to sustain a contest.” Gov.-elect Hobbs’ attorney discussed the conflict between Lake’s written complaint and the argument her counsel made today: “The complaint, I believe, alleges discrimination against Republicans. Counsel’s shifting theory today is that it was actually not about Republicans or even about Republican voters, but about Kari Lake.” She argued that the math that Lake’s attorney presented “doesn’t add up.” Gov.-elect Hobbs’ attorney suggested that the “chaos and mayhem” that Lake alleges “doesn’t even begin to describe what [Lake] seeks to unleash upon this court in the course of a trial over the next two days if this court were to allow it.” Gov.-elect Hobbs’ attorney concluded by stating that the “court should not indulge this kind of a show that plaintiffs want to put on in a courtroom. It is not a theater; it is not a public broadcast and it is not a political platform. It is a court of laws and evidence and rules of procedure and the court should not allow this case to proceed.”
After that, Maricopa County’s attorney rebutted the argument that 25,000 ballots “mysteriously” came out of nowhere by explaining how results are reported on and after Election Day. He stated that he would have been more impressed with Lake’s witness on election equipment if the witness “maintained the printers at Staples.” Maricopa County’s attorney then turned to the arguments Lake’s attorney made about the signature verification process and vote tabulation machines, rebutting both of them by stating that the tabulators have rejected ballots before, not just in 2022. Lastly, he ended by asking the judge to consider allowing sanctions briefing against Lake’s attorney for bringing this lawsuit.
Lastly, the judge heard from Secretary Hobbs’ attorney, who disputed Lake’s claim that election officials who dispute election misinformation violate the First Amendment. Further, Secretary Hobbs’ attorney argued that even “if the court were to accept plaintiffs’ rampant and unreasonable speculation of what occurred [on Election Day in Maricopa County], that doesn’t invalidate the votes at issue.” He concluded by stating that for “four years the secretary has served as chief elections officer. And in that role, she wants to ensure that all legally cast ballots are counted. And that’s why she’s here today, to urge the Court to reject plaintiff’s invitation to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Arizonans who did nothing wrong and who are eligible to vote.”
At the end of the hearing, the judge said he’ll issue a ruling on the motions to dismiss Lake’s election contest soon.