WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, March 22, the Arizona Supreme Court issued an order denying review of six of the seven claims in election denier and failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s appeal of her previously dismissed election contest. Yesterday’s order comes after Lake appealed an Arizona Court of Appeals’ decision dismissing her election contest to Arizona’s highest court. In her appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court, Lake argued that the appellate court’s opinion must be reversed because the trial court did not appropriately review her claims and instead “ruled that Arizona election laws don’t matter.” The Arizona Supreme Court has what is known as discretionary jurisdiction; this means that the court must agree to review lower court decisions (as opposed to automatically taking the appeal). Yesterday, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected six of Lake’s seven claims and sent the remaining claim regarding signature matching back to the trial court for review.
Following her November 2022 loss to Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) by over 17,000 votes, Lake argued in the trial court that Maricopa County ballot printers and tabulator “failures” created “chaos” on Election Day and that the certification of results should be voided as a result. At trial, Lake had to prove “that the [ballot] printer malfunctions were intentional, and directed to affect the results of the election, and that such actions did actually affect the outcome” and that Maricopa County mishandled ballots during canvassing in a way that affected the canvass. On Dec. 24, 2022, an Arizona trial court judge rejected Lake’s election contest, concluding that Lake did not prove that any intentional misconduct affected the results of the election and that the testimony presented at trial did not “substantiate Plaintiff’s claim of intentional misconduct as to either claim.”
On appeal to the Arizona Court of Appeals, Lake argued that the trial court erred when it dismissed her conspiracy-riddled case and that the decision should be reversed by the appellate court. Ultimately, Arizona’s appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision and concluded that Lake’s “request for relief fails because the evidence presented to the superior court ultimately supports the court’s conclusion that voters were able to cast their ballots, that votes were counted correctly, and that no other basis justifies setting aside the election results.” Lake then filed a petition to the Arizona Supreme Court asking it to hear the case.
Lake’s petition to the Arizona Supreme Court suggested that the trial court used the incorrect standard when it rejected her election contest and that the defendants — rather than Lake — should have been required to prove there was no misconduct in Maricopa County, thereby flipping the normal burden of proof: “The court of appeals required proving outcome-determinative numbers of votes by clear-and-convincing evidence…Thus, rather than a clear-and-convincing standard against Lake, this Court’s [prior] decision should shift the evidentiary burden to defendants.” Lake went a step further to assert that “undisputed facts, and the violations of law” presented in her petition showed “that Maricopa’s 2022 election must be set aside.”
In yesterday’s order dismissing an overwhelming majority of Lake’s claims, the Arizona Supreme Court held that the “Court of Appeals aptly resolved these issues, most of which were the subject of evidentiary proceedings in the trial court.” The court further stated that Lake’s “challenges on these grounds are insufficient to warrant the requested relief under Arizona or federal law.” The remaining claim — which alleges that the lower court erred when it dismissed Lake’s signature verification claim — will go back to the trial court for further review. At the trial court level, Lake will have to prove that during the 2022 election, Maricopa County’s use of signature matching on early mail-in ballots did not comply with Arizona law and that this alleged misconduct altered the outcome of the election in a substantive way. In addition, the Arizona Supreme Court stated that Lake may file a reply to the respondents’ motions for sanctions against Lake and her attorneys and that the motions for sanctions “will be considered in due course.” This decision largely dismissing Lake’s claims is a victory for Arizona voters since Lake’s contest will only continue on one narrow claim in the trial court.