PHOENIX (AP) — A judge has rejected Kari Lake’s request to examine signed ballot envelopes of 1.3 million early voters, giving the defeated Arizona Republican candidate for governor another loss in her third trial related to last year’s election.
In an order filed Thursday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah Jr. argued their release would undermine the ballot verification process in future elections.
“The broad right of electoral participation outweighs the narrow interests of those who would continue to pick at the machinery of democracy,” Hannah wrote.
The majority of the two-day bench trial was spent hearing testimony from Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, who is named as a defendant. Richer explained Lake’s initial request to see the envelopes was turned down because state law mandates ballot envelope signatures remain confidential.
“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 when questioned by attorneys for the county.
In Arizona, the envelopes for early voting ballots serve as affidavits in which voters declare, under penalty of perjury, that they are registered to vote in the county, haven’t already voted and will not vote again in that election. Releasing the ballot affidavit envelopes could have a “chilling effect” and lead to some voters either not voting or deliberately not signing their ballots, Richer said.
Bryan Blehm, the attorney representing Lake, argued that there are other documents with people’s signatures that are available to the public, such as property deeds. Signatures are already out in the open and “in the stream of commerce,” he said.
Lake previously lost two trials that challenged her loss to Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs by more than 17,000 votes. In the second trial, a judge rejected a misconduct claim Lake made about ballot signature verification efforts in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and where more than 60% of the state’s voters live.
The former TV anchor’s latest case doesn’t challenge her defeat but instead is a public records lawsuit that asks to review all early ballot envelopes with voter signatures in Maricopa County, where officials had denied her request for those documents.
Lake is among the most vocal of last year’s Republican candidates promoting former President Donald Trump’s election lies, which she made the centerpiece of her campaign. While most other election deniers around the country conceded after losing their races in November, Lake did not. She is openly considering a run for the U.S. Senate and is regarded as a contender to be Trump’s running mate in his 2024 campaign.
The Associated Press