In Arizona, Election Deniers Suddenly Decry Voter Suppression

Dark blue background with red-toned image of Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who lost her election, and blue-toned images of a box that was used for ballot drop off when certain voting tabulators weren't working in Maricopa County on Election Day, a ballot drop box container and ballots in a ballot tabulator.

In “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” Tom Wolfe wrote that “a liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested.” After this year’s midterm elections, I would add that a voting rights advocate is an election denier who lost a close election.

Ever since she lost her election for Arizona governor, Kari Lake has become deeply concerned with, of all things, voter suppression. Over the weekend, her campaign tweeted: “The appropriate amount of voter suppression is 0%.”

On its face, you can’t really disagree with the sentiment. I have argued repeatedly against laws and practices that suppress lawful votes. I have litigated against states like Arizona that make voting unnecessarily complex or that enact laws aimed at disenfranchising voters. 

In fact, it was an Arizona ban on ballot collection that ultimately led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrowing of the Voting Rights Act in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee. At issue in that case was a law that targeted and villainized Latino mail-in voters who could not rely on the U.S. Postal Service to return their ballots.

Yet there are — on Lake’s own Twitter feed — videos of voters who claimed that they waited in long lines to vote, were sent from one polling place to another by overworked election officials and had their provisional ballots rejected because they failed to register in time for the election.

Left with no other option, Lake finds herself in the awkward position of blaming her loss on an unusual culprit for election deniers: voter suppression.

If you didn’t know better, you might think Lake was a champion of access to voting, supporter of funding for election officials and advocate for same day voter registration. She is none of those.

To the contrary, Lake has spent the last two years trafficking in election denying lies, bringing litigation to undermine voting rights and encouraging Arizona and other states to restrict, rather than expand, voting access. Though she now criticizes the state for its slow pace of counting ballots, she sued last summer to ban the use of electronic voting machines in Arizona and require that voters fill out paper ballots that are hand counted. Such a hand count would take weeks, if not longer, to complete.

When her supporters staged armed vigilantes at county drop boxes, she was silent. When voters who were afraid to cast their votes sued to stop the intimidation, she acted completely unconcerned with the voter suppression she now professes is so important to eliminate.

What is different now is that she lost.

Arizona’s governor’s race was not especially close. Current Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) defeated Lake by more than 17,000 votes — a margin even larger than what President Joe Biden beat former President Donald Trump by in 2020. The 0.6% difference is outside the statutory recount margin and, even if there was a recount, the margin is far larger than history suggests could ever be overcome, barring Lake from claiming that the results were too close to declare a winner.

Nor can Lake claim fraud. There is simply no evidence of fraud in the election. And, the outgoing governor, Doug Ducey (R), called Hobbs to congratulate her. Recall that Ducey famously refused to answer a phone call from Trump when the former president was obsessed with false allegations of fraud.

Left with no other option, Lake finds herself in the awkward position of blaming her loss on an unusual culprit for election deniers: voter suppression. At the heart of her claim is that Maricopa County, the state’s largest county and home to Phoenix, experienced some equipment failures and long lines on Election Day. There is no question that for some portion of the day there were tabulation machine issues that resulted in long lines to vote and it may be that some voters were sent to alternate voting locations.

However unfortunate, this is not out of the ordinary in our elections. Long lines caused by insufficient or broken voting equipment is a tax usually paid by Black, brown and young voters. At the same time that voters in Maricopa County were waiting in two-hour lines, students at the University of Michigan were enduring near freezing temperatures during their six-hour long wait to cast their ballots. Indeed, past studies have revealed that it is often Black voters — like students, who are traditionally Democratic — who suffer the longest wait times to vote and experience the most frequent equipment failures.

Yet, Republicans like Lake seldom have a sympathetic word for those voters. Indeed, “Big Lie” advocates are more likely to try to prevent voters waiting in long lines from being provided food and water than they are to decry the conditions those voters face. The only difference here is that Lake sees an advantage to using voters who experienced the hardship of voting as pawns in her cynical effort to undermine the 2022 election.

Thankfully, like Trump, her Hail Mary effort to prevent defeat is doomed to fail. In a recent video about her legal preparation, she told her supporters that she “is assembling the best and brightest legal team.” Given her track record, that seems doubtful. However, even if not the best and brightest, if her legal team is competent, they will tell her that she is sure to suffer the same humiliating fate in court that Trump experienced two years ago.

I suspect Lake knows this. It explains why so far she has mounted a pathetic public relations campaign rather than take legal action. 

It is too bad, though, because there is an opportunity to use this election as the basis to reform voting in Arizona to make it more accessible and easier to register and vote. But that would require an honest politician who genuinely cares about voting rights and a Republican Party that would support necessary reforms. Neither is the case in Arizona. Either way, Hobbs will make an excellent next governor of the state. That you can count on.