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Lake's bid to overturn election defeat now in judge's hands after 3-day trial

The former TV anchor had to show Maricopa County didn't verify signatures on mail-in ballots. Her witnesses failed to back that up.

PHOENIX — Republican Kari Lake's long-shot challenge to overturn her defeat in the Arizona gubernatorial election six months ago is now in the hands of the Maricopa County judge who threw out Lake's initial challenge in December.

Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson is expected to issue his ruling in the next several days or perhaps even weeks.

During a three-day trial that ended Friday, the judge alluded to not wanting to make any procedural errors in the case that might invite an appeal. 

A Lake appeal is why Thompson is hearing this case for a second time. 

The Arizona Supreme Court in March upheld Thompson's dismissal of six of Lake's seven claims in her election contest. But the high court sent back her claim that Maricopa County elections officials didn't properly verify signatures on mail-in ballots.

Early voters must sign an affidavit on the ballot envelope attesting that they are registered to vote in Arizona. It's one of the security checks for mail-in ballots.

Thompson set a high bar for Lake's attorneys to win the case: show no signature verification was done and prove there's a mathematical basis to claim that the failure cost Lake the election. 

Lake lost to Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs by 17,000 votes. 

The former Phoenix TV news anchor has never conceded defeat. She is considering a run for the U.S. Senate next year and also appears to be angling for the vice presidential slot on a Donald Trump ticket in 2024.

Lake's case faltered on day 1 of the second trial. 

Her first "whistleblower" witness, a signature reviewer, went to great lengths to describe the verification process. 

Under questioning by a Maricopa County lawyer, she agreed that she verified ballot signatures. So did a Lake second whistleblower.

In his opening statement, Lake attorney Kurt Olsen said he would show "hundreds of thousands of signatures" weren't properly verified.

On day 2 of the trial, the expert witness hired to support that argument, Erick Speckin, testified that 274,000 voter signatures were reviewed in less than three seconds apiece. He claimed that was impossible. 

The county's co-elections director, Rey Valenzuela, described how signatures could be verified that quickly and why that conformed to state law.

Speckin also testified that he, too, could not say that no signature verification was done. 

In his closing statement Friday, Olsen suggested the judge do the math to figure out how many of those 274,000 ballots might have affected the election outcome. 

As was the case in the first trial, Thompson expressed his exasperation with Lake's legal team, Olsen, and former Cyber Ninjas lawyer Bryan Blehm.

"I feel like I'm teaching a seminar here," the judge said, as he corrected Lake's team on court procedure.

Thompson also shut down Blehm's attempt to explore his own conspiracy theory, expressed on his Telegram channel, that the county had given a reporter special treatment by fulfilling a public records request for signature-related documents.

Both Olsen and Blehm were sanctioned by the Arizona Supreme Court for repeatedly making "unequivocally false" claims about 35,000 ballots being added to the 2022 vote count.

In December, Olsen was sanctioned by a federal judge in another Lake lawsuit, for making "false, misleading, and unsupported factual assertions." 

That lawsuit sought to bar the use of electronic vote-tabulating machines in the mid-term elections. 


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