By JACQUES BILLEAUD
PHOENIX (AP) — Republican Kari Lake didn’t offer evidence to back her claims of widespread, intentional misconduct on Election Day at her two-day trial challenging her loss to Democrat Katie Hobbs in Arizona governor’s race, lawyers for the state said Thursday.
Lake also never established her claim that printer problems at Maricopa County polling places were intentional acts that would have changed the race’s outcome had they not occurred, said Abha Khanna, a lawyer representing Hobbs, who ultimately won the race by just over 17,000 votes. At the trial’s closing arguments Thursday, Khanna said Lake’s claims were based on hearsay, speculation and theatrics. “What we got instead was just loose threads and gaping plot holes. We know now that her story was a work of fiction,” Khanna said.
Kurt Olsen, one of Lake’s attorneys, said officials tried to downplay the effects of the printer problems in Maricopa County. “This is about trust, your honor,” Olsen said. “It’s about restoring people’s trust. There is not a person that’s watching this thing that isn’t shaking their head now.”
Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson, an appointee of former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, didn’t say when he would issue a ruling.
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 focused 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, adding 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. 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.
Her attorneys pointed to a witness who examined ballots on behalf of her campaign and discovered 14 ballots that had 19-inch images of the ballot printed on 20-inch paper, meaning the ballots wouldn’t be read by a tabulator. The witness insisted someone changed those printer configurations, a claim disputed by elections officials.
County officials say the ballot images were slightly smaller as a result of a shrink-to-fit feature being selected on a printer by a tech employee who was looking for solutions to Election Day issues. They say about 1,200 ballots were affected by turning on the feature and that those ballots were duplicated so that they could be read by a tabulator. Ultimately, these ballots were counted, officials said.
Lake’s last witness was Richard Baris, a pollster who conducted exit polling in Arizona and claimed technical problems at polling places had disenfranchised enough voters that it would have changed the outcome of the race in Lake’s favor.
Baris claimed that 25,000 to 40,000 people who would normally have voted actually didn’t cast ballots as a result of Election Day problems — and that the voters that day were more likely to support Lake. Baris said his estimate was primarily influenced by the number of people who started answering his exit poll but didn’t finish the process.
Kenneth Mayer, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who testified on behalf of election officials, said Baris’ claim was “a series of assumptions and speculation.”
Thompson 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 Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer 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.
Meanwhile, a trial is scheduled Friday in Republican Abraham Hamadeh’s challenge of his narrow defeat to Democrat Kris Mayes in the Arizona attorney general’s race. Hamadeh, who lost by 511 votes, alleges in his lawsuit that problems with printers in Maricopa County led to issues involving disenfranchised voters.
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