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Kari Lake lawyers fined in failed Arizona election case


PHOENIX (AP) — Attorneys for Republican Kari Lake were fined $2,000 by the Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday in their failed challenge to her defeat in last year’s race for governor against Democrat Katie Hobbs.

In an order, the state’s highest court said Lake’s attorney had made “false statements of fact” that more than 35,000 ballots had been wrongly added to the total vote count. They have 10 days to transfer the payment to the clerk.

However, the court declined to order Lake to pay attorneys’ fees to cover the costs of defending Hobbs and Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, also a Democrat, in Lake’s appeal.

Chief Justice Robert Brutinel said Lake’s challenge over signature verification remains unresolved.

Hobbs and Fontes said Lake and her lawyers should face sanctions for making baseless claims that more than 35,000 ballots had been entered into the race at a facility where a contractor scanned ballots submitted to prepare them for county election officials to process and count them.

When the Supreme Court first faced Lake’s challenge in late March, judges said the evidence failed to show that more than 35,000 votes were added to the vote count in Maricopa County, home to more than 60% of the state’s voters. the state.

Attorneys for Hobbs and Fontes told the court that Lake and her attorneys have misrepresented evidence and are harming the election process by continuing to make baseless claims of election fraud. Lawyers for Fontes asked the court to order Lake’s lawyers to forfeit any money they may have made from filing the appeal, arguing that they should not profit from their own wrongdoing.

Lake’s lawyers said sanctions were not appropriate because no one can doubt Lake’s sincere belief that her race was determined by election misconduct.

Lake, who lost to Hobbs by just over 17,000 votes, was one of the most outspoken Republican candidates of 2022 promoting former President Donald Trump’s election lies, which she made the centerpiece of her campaign. While most other election deniers across the country relented after losing their races in November, Lake did not.

In her challenge, Lake focused on problems with ballot printers at some polling places in Maricopa County.

The faulty printers produced ballots that were too light readable by the on-site tabulators at polling stations. In some areas, lines backed up because of the confusion. The alleged problems with Lake’s ballot printer resulted from willful misconduct.

County officials say everyone has had a chance to vote and all ballots have been counted as those affected by the printers have been taken to more sophisticated counters at the election office.

The state Supreme Court declined to hear almost all of Lake’s appeal on March 22, citing no evidence that 35,000 ballots had been added to the vote count.

Still, the Supreme Court revived Lake’s claim challenging the application of signature verification procedures to early ballots in Maricopa County. The court sent the claim back to a lower court for consideration. This final order allows a court to resume the case.

In mid-February, the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected Lake’s claimsconcluding that she provided no evidence that voters whose ballots were illegible to tabulators at polling stations could not vote.

Lake’s lawyers said the ballot chain of custody was broken at an outside facility where a contractor scans submitted ballots to prepare them for processing. The lawyers alleged that workers put their own mail-in ballots in the pile instead of returning them through normal channels, and that there was no paperwork to document the transfer of ballots. The province disputes the claims.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.