Trial: Expert disputes Lake’s claim over her gov’s race loss

  • FILE - Kari Lake, Arizona Republican candidate for governor, speaks to supporters at the Republican watch party in Scottsdale, Ariz., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. A judge on Monday, Dec. 19 dismissed part of a lawsuit filed by Lake, the defeated Republican candidate for Arizona governor, but will allow her to call witnesses in an attempt to prove that she lost because of misconduct by election officials. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX — An expert testifying at Republican Kari Lake’s trial challenging her defeat in Arizona governor’s race said Thursday that her claims about the impact of Election Day lines and voter disenfranchisement on the outcome weren’t backed by evidence.

Kenneth Mayer, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also criticized a claim by a pollster who testified on Lake’s behalf that technical problems at polling places had disenfranchised enough voters that it would have been a game-changer in the contest ultimately won by Democrat Katie Hobbs with just over 17,000 votes.

“There is absolutely no evidence to support that conclusion,” Mayer said of the pollster’s argument for Lake, calling those “a series of assumptions and speculation.”

Thursday marked the second day of Lake’s trial in her challenge of her defeat. Although Lake has claimed the election was stolen, her lawyers have so far only raised allegations of small-bore problems that didn’t appear to show the widespread, intentional misconduct she would need to prove.

Lake faces extremely long odds in her challenge, needing to prove not only that misconduct occurred, but also that it was intended to deny her victory and did in fact result in the wrong woman being declared the winner.

Her lawyers are focusing on problems with ballot printers at some polling places in Maricopa County, home to more than 60% of voters. The defective printers produced ballots that were too light to be read by the on-site tabulators at polling places. Lines backed up in some areas amid the confusion.

County officials say everyone had a chance to vote and that all ballots were counted since the ballots affected by printer issues were taken to more sophisticated counters at the elections department headquarters.

Lake’s attorneys also claim the chain of custody for ballots was broken at an off-site facility, where a contractor scans mail ballots to prepare them for processing. They claim workers at the facility put their own mail ballots into the pile, rather than returning them through normal channels, and also that paperwork documenting the transfer of ballots was missing. The county disputes that claim.

Lake was among the most vocal Republicans this year in promoting former President Donald Trump’s election falsehoods, which she made the centerpiece of her campaign. While most of the other election deniers around the country conceded after losing their races in November, Lake has not. Instead, she is asking the judge to either declare her the winner or order a revote in Maricopa County.

The last witness called by Lake was Richard Baris, a pollster who conducted exit polling in Arizona. He claimed that 25,000 to 40,000 people who would normally have voted actually didn’t cast a vote as a result of Election Day problems — and that the voters that day were more likely to support Lake.

“It would be significant enough to change the leader in the race,” Baris said.

Baris said his estimate was primarily influenced by the number of people who started answering his exit poll but didn’t finish the process. He acknowledged his survey didn’t provide the number of people who had problems with tabulators or experienced long lines.

Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson, who was appointed to the bench by former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, had previously dismissed eight of the 10 claims Lake raised in her lawsuit. Among those were Lake’s allegation that Hobbs, in her capacity as secretary of state, and Richer, the county recorder, engaged in censorship by flagging social media posts with election misinformation for possible removal by Twitter. He also dismissed her claims of discrimination against Republicans and that mail-in voting procedures are illegal.

Hobbs takes office as governor on Jan. 2.


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