On Dec. 27, an Arizona judge denied a request from Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs and Maricopa County to sanction GOP candidate Kari Lake and her legal team.
Judge Peter Thompson wrote that, although Lake didn’t meet the burden of providing evidence for her claims, she also didn’t meet the standard for imposing sanctions. Thompson’s ruling does, however, require Lake to reimburse Hobbs $33,040 for several smaller expenses such as expert witness costs.
“There is no doubt that each side believes firmly in its position with great conviction,” the judge wrote in the ruling. “The fact that Plaintiff failed to meet the burden of clear and convincing evidence required … does not equate to a finding that her claims were, or were not, groundless and presented in bad faith. Any legal decision must be based on the law and facts rather than subjective beliefs or partisan opinions, no matter how strongly held.”
Thompson had determined that there was not enough evidence of misconduct by Maricopa County to overturn election results in the region. The ruling came just days after Lake filed the lawsuit and after Thompson rejected eight of Lake’s 10 claims, allowing two to go to trial.
On Dec. 26, following the conclusion of the trial, officials with Maricopa County filed a motion against Lake and her legal team. Hobbs in her capacity as secretary of state joined the motion.
“Courts are established by Arizona’s Constitution and statutes to resolve actual disputes between parties,” Maricopa County Deputy Attorney Thomas P. Liddy wrote on Dec. 26 in a 15-page memo asking Thompson for the sanctions and attorneys fees. “They do not exist so that candidates for political office can attempt to make political statements and fundraise,” Liddy continued. “And they should not be used to harass political opponents and sow completely unfounded doubts about the integrity of elections. All of those things happened in this matter.”
In another court filing, Hobbs petitioned the Superior Court in Maricopa County to give her more than $600,000 in compensation for fees and expenses after Lake’s lawsuit was filed.
Lake trailed Hobbs in the gubernatorial race by roughly 17,000 votes and filed two lawsuits following the conclusion of the election. The first sought information and records from Maricopa County, while the second aimed to either overturn the results or redo the election entirely.
One of Lake’s team’s major arguments surrounded a news conference held by Maricopa County election officials, in which they confirmed printer problems across polling locations on Election Day. Lake claimed that this disenfranchised voters, and she brought in independent pollster Richard Baris to testify that this and other troubles on Election Day disproportionately impacted GOP voters.
Baris stated that 25,000 to 40,000 people, who would’ve normally voted, actually didn’t cast ballots as a result of Election Day problems such as long lines and printer issues. His estimate was primarily influenced by the number of people who started answering his exit poll but didn’t finish the process.
“The bottom line here is that those who said they would cast their vote by mail or drop their ballot off by mail completed their questionnaire at a 93 percent rate,” Baris said, adding that “the rate for Election Day voters was only 72 percent. I can tell you that has never happened to me before, ever.”
Lake’s attorneys pointed to a witness in the trial, who determined that 14 of 15 duplicate ballots he’d inspected on their behalf had 19-inch images of the ballot printed on 20-inch paper, meaning they wouldn’t be read by the tabulator and would be automatically rejected.
The witness testified that such a change would’ve required a change to printer configurations, although election officials disputed those assertions.
Lake vowed to appeal the decision to the Arizona Supreme Court. However, at this time, it is unclear when she intends to file her appeal, and Hobbs is slated to be sworn in as governor on Jan. 2.
“As our appeal moves forward, we again extend our invitation [and] offer complete protection to all whistleblowers,” Lake’s team wrote on Twitter. “Arizona deserves the full truth about what occurred on Election Day. And the people who caused it deserve accountability.”
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