Kari Lake's election challenge: Hearings canceled as Arizona Supreme Court considers punishment
The election challenge filed by former GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake will extend for weeks more following two court orders Saturday that set schedules to sort out the remaining issues in the case.
Last week, the Arizona Supreme Court sent a single claim in Lake's case — her allegation that Maricopa County's practice of verifying ballot signatures didn't follow state law — back to a county judge for reconsideration. That county judge set a schedule to examine the signature verification issue with the possibility of oral arguments this week.
Now, those dates are off.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson on Saturday rescinded his order from just days before after the Supreme Court, in its own Saturday order, set a schedule to consider whether Lake should face sanctions for bringing a case that Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs' legal team has dubbed frivolous.
The state's top court said Lake and Hobbs should file written arguments by April 12 on the appropriateness of sanctions. Hobbs is asking a judge to make Lake pay her attorneys' fees and other costs. Secretary of State Adrian Fontes has also sought unspecified sanctions against Lake.
In depth:What to know about the claims, the evidence and the law in Lake's signature verification challenge
Because the Supreme Court is still considering an element of the case, Thompson wiped from his own calendar the dates set to review the allegations Lake made about signature verification practices.
"However, the Supreme Court has since set a briefing schedule on pending motions for sanctions before thatcourt," Thompson wrote on Saturday. "There are matters unresolved at the appellate level which prevents an expedited mandate."
Thompson did not set another date to consider the signature issue, leaving Lake's case — which has lingered for nearly five months after her election defeat — in legal limbo.
What Lake claims about signatures
Each election, Arizonans who vote early using paper ballots returned by mail or drop box sign an affidavit envelope to affirm it is their ballot and their vote. Election workers then compare that signature to what is in a person's voting record, a process that includes several layers of human review and that also allows a voter to "cure" their ballot if the signatures don't match.
Lake alleged workers in Maricopa County should only allow comparison to their existing signature on a voter registration form, not other voter documents. Maricopa County and Hobbs dispute that claim and say they followed state law.
Under the Supreme Court order, Lake will have to show with hard numbers that enough votes with unmatched signatures were counted to change the outcome of the election, which Lake narrowly lost to Hobbs by 17,117 votes. Lake has not reviewed any signatures from the 2022 election in Maricopa County, relying on the experiences of three election workers instead, and so far has cited only an examination of signatures from the 2020 election in her case.
Reach reporter Stacey Barchenger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-416-5669. Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger.