Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah Jr. denied Kari Lake’s request to inspect 1.3 million signed ballot envelopes from early voters on Thursday, marking another setback for the defeated Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate in her third legal battle related to the previous year’s election.
Hannah expressed concerns that granting such access would compromise the integrity of future elections’ ballot verification processes.
“The broad right of electoral participation outweighs the narrow interests of those who would continue to pick at the machinery of democracy,” Hannah wrote.
Bryan Blehm, representing Lake, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Lake, meanwhile, has refrained from directly commenting on the ruling, instead choosing to share supportive messages on social media platforms.
During the two-day bench trial, much of the time was devoted to hearing from Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a defendant in the case. Richer explained that Lake’s request to view the envelopes was denied due to state laws mandating the confidentiality of ballot envelope signatures.
“We can’t release this, which is why we’ve said no to this plaintiff and others as well. It’s not discriminatory,” Richer said.
Richer also warned of the potential negative consequences of releasing ballot affidavit envelopes, such as deterring voters from participating or not signing their ballots. Blehm countered by arguing that other publicly available documents contain signatures, suggesting that signatures are already publicly accessible.
Hannah likened Lake’s efforts to inspect the envelopes to a futile attempt to dissect the electoral process. He suggested that even if Lake did not find what she was looking for, the act of examining the process could bolster public confidence in its reliability.
“If only she could cut open the electoral process and examine each of its 1.3 million pieces, she says, she would be able to figure out what happened and show that the prize has been there waiting for her all along,” Hannah said. “Even if she doesn’t find what she’s looking for … the act of disassembly will strengthen everyone’s confidence that the machinery produces reliable outcomes.”
Lake’s previous legal challenges, including a misconduct claim regarding ballot signature verification in Maricopa County, were unsuccessful. Her latest lawsuit, distinct from contesting her electoral defeat, sought access to all early ballot envelopes with voter signatures in Maricopa County.
Lake has been a prominent figure among Republican candidates echoing former President Donald Trump’s claims about the 2020 election and has not conceded her loss. She is currently considering a U.S. Senate run and is seen as a potential running mate for Trump in the 2024 campaign.
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