A Maricopa County superior court judge has refused to dismiss Kari Lake’s public records request for access to ballot affidavit envelopes.
Maricopa County said that, with a few select exceptions that county attorneys felt Lake failed to fulfill, the signatures on the ballot affidavit are part of the voter registration record and are thus made secret under state law.
Judge John Hannah rejected the claim because county recorders often include ballot affidavit envelopes in voter registration records rather than because it is required by law or otherwise specified.
The court is “not required to defer to the elections officials in how they have historically interpreted” the statute, Hannah said from the bench. He claimed he did not disagree with the interpretation but added that he had “no quarrel” with it.
“I am not convinced that the ballot affidavit is a voter registration record,” Hannah said. “It is a record from which the election officials derive information that becomes part of the voter registration record, but that doesn’t mean the ballot affidavit itself is a voter registration record.”
“Hannah then tasked the parties with litigating under public records law instead, meaning the county must argue releasing the records would violate privacy interests or run counter to the best interest of the state. At oral arguments today, Joseph LaRue, senior election attorney for Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, previewed arguments from the county against disclosing the records,” the AZ Capitol Times reported.
“The county concedes that the ballot affidavit envelopes are public records, but they claim they have ‘several’ vested interests in keeping the records confidential. He said the county sought ‘to protect the integrity of elections’ as making voter signatures publicly available could open the potential for forgery or fraud on ballot envelopes,” the outlet added.
“That would take some work. It wouldn’t be an easy thing to do, but it might be able to happen,” LaRue said.
However, given the inability to submit fresh evidence on appeal and the rules controlling discovery in such disputes, the county nonetheless declared Lake’s electoral campaign to be finished.
Bryan Blehm, attorney for Lake, contended Lake’s election contest was far from over, saying, “We are still up your honor and signature verification is still on the table.”
Blehm said signatures, “are our identity. And in all elections, your Honor, these represent our most basic and fundamental rights as free people. This is this person’s identity. That is all. That is their identity, true at blue 100%. And there is no law that they have the right to hide that public record from people by shoving it into a voter registration record.”
Lake recently teased what’s in store for her in the near future in a series of social media posts and interviews as speculation increases that she is eying a U.S. Senate run.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Lake wrote, “Are you ready for the next chapter?” — in a post that included a photo of her silhouetted on a stage with a state flag as her backdrop.
Should Lake decide on a Senate run, however, she already appears to have an advantage. Last month, one survey had Lake ahead of all other possible candidates in a hypothetical 2024 GOP Senate primary by 28 points.
A recent poll conducted by JL Partners from April 10-12 showed that despite not announcing her plans to run for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (I-Ariz.) seat, 38% of registered Arizona Republicans and undeclared voters would vote for Kari Lake. Karrin Taylor Robson, who lost the GOP gubernatorial primary to Lake last year, came in second place with 10% support.
“Following Robson, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb has 8%, 2022 Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters has 7%, and 2022 Arizona Attorney General candidate Abraham Hamadeh has 4%,” the outlet reported. “No Arizona Republicans have entered the 2024 Senate primary, but Lake, Masters, and Hamadeh were all endorsed by former President Donald Trump last year in their respective primaries.”