An Arizona judge rejected Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s request to view signed ballots of about 1.3 million early voters in the state.
In a ruling on Nov. 30, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah denied Ms. Lake, who had ran for governor during the 2022 midterms, from gaining access to the ballot envelopes in connection to last year’s elections. He argued that releasing the ballot envelopes and signatures would imperil the verification process for future Arizona elections.
“The broad right of electoral participation outweighs the narrow interests of those who would continue to pick at the machinery of democracy,” the judge wrote, adding that the release of the envelopes would “create a significant risk of widespread voter fraud where none now exists.”
Their release, he said, would also “expose voters to harassment and potentially force them to defend the integrity of their own votes. Some number of voters would stop participating entirely, out of fear of identity theft or concern about privacy.”
“Those individuals have exactly the same interest in being heard through the electoral process as those who voted for unsuccessful candidates in past elections. Their frustration and disillusionment are every bit as harmful to democratic self-government as the frustration and disillusionment of those who have come to doubt the ‘integrity’ of the electoral process,” Judge Hannah wrote.
Bryan Blehm, Lake’s attorney, has not released a public comment on the ruling. Ms. Lake has yet to comment directly on her social media but has been re-posting supportive comments on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Ms. Lake’s campaign account on X, the Kari Lake War Room, argued that her public records request “was valid” but that the judge “chose not to release the records anyway.” The account argued further that Judge Hannah’s ruling went “against transparent elections.”
In another post, her campaign wrote that “there is nothing on these envelopes that is not present on other government documents” and noted that anyone can see the signatures on deeds and other documents that are sent to the county recorder’s office. “They are being hidden from the public because they will expose just how weak our elections are,” it added.
The majority of the two-day bench trial regarding her lawsuit was spent hearing testimony from Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, who is named as a defendant in the suit. Mr. Richer explained Ms. Lake’s initial request to see the envelopes was turned down because state law mandates that ballot envelope signatures remain confidential.
“We can’t release this, which is why we’ve said no to this plaintiff and others as well. It’s not discriminatory,” Mr. Richer said when questioned by attorneys for the county.
But Mr. Blehm, the attorney representing the GOP candidate, argued that there are other documents with people’s signatures that are available to the public, such as property deeds. Signatures are already out in the open and “in the stream of commerce,” he said.
Ms. Lake’s latest case doesn’t challenge her defeat but instead is a public records lawsuit that asks to review all early ballot envelopes with voter signatures in Maricopa County, where officials had denied her request for those documents.
Ms. Lake, a former TV anchor who is running for Arizona’s Senate seat in the 2024 election, has lost two trials. In the second trial, a judge rejected a misconduct claim Ms. Lake made about ballot signature verification efforts in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and where more than 60 percent of the state’s voters live.
In October, a federal court rejected her case that sought to revive an attempt to bar electronic voting machines from future elections.
Ms. Lake announced several weeks ago that she was entering the race for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (I-Ariz.) Senate seat. She’ll likely face off against Ms. Sinema, who hasn’t yet publicly confirmed she is seeking reelection, and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), who announced he’s running for the seat as a Democrat.
Ms. Lake has been a vocal backer and ally of former President Donald Trump. She earned his endorsement after announcing her Senate bid.
Last week, she leaned into President Trump’s comments about immigration, saying that illegal immigrants are being “intentionally” allowed into the United States “to destabilize our country.”
“We have to start by building the wall. We have to stop the bleeding, as they say,” she told the Washington Examiner. “If you have a severed artery, you don’t spend your time, money, and energy, you know, mopping up the blood that’s spilling.
“You spend your immediate energy protecting and stopping the bleeding from that artery. And the Democrats always like to go the other way. They love having these problems. And then they just throw a ton of money at the symptoms and [try] to help with the symptoms rather than [address] the problem.”
After the conclusion of the 2022 midterm election, Democrat Katie Hobbs was sworn in as Arizona’s governor in January. Ms. Lake has not yet conceded the gubernatorial election.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times