Judge: Lake’s attorneys need to prove no signature verification took place

Judge: Lake’s attorneys need to prove no signature verification took place

Lake, records, election, Maricopa County
Kari Lake, who at this time was the Arizona Republican candidate for governor, speaks to supporters at the Republican watch party in Scottsdale on Nov. 8, 2022. A superior court judge on May 17, 2023 tasked failed gubernatorial candidate Lake’s attorneys with proving no signature verification took place at any level in Maricopa County during the November 2022 election. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A superior court judge tasked failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s attorneys with proving no signature verification took place at any level in Maricopa County during the November 2022 election.  

In the first day of Lake’s second election trial today, her counsel tried to establish the county did not have sufficient staffing nor oversight in place to make a portion of signatures verified valid.  

But Lake’s key “whistleblower” witnesses detailed their work in both the primary and the general election working in signature verification, and attorneys for the county found other witnesses brought in to verify data and other evidence fell short in providing the “smoking gun” Lake sought to present.  

In opening statements, attorney Kurt Olsen attempted to set up Lake’s claim in saying that some correct signature verification did occur, but in some cases “evidence will show signatures were not reviewed at all or the verifiers were simply clicking through the screen without cross reference.”  

Olsen contends the number of signatures with no verification is enough to overcome the margin between current Gov. Katie Hobbs and Lake.  

He brought forward a video as a demonstrative of a signature verifier “clicking like a woodpecker” through signatures.  

Thomas Liddy, Civil Division Chief for Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, then said in his opening statement that the county had the man in the video for the exact action shown.  

And he ended his opening statement by saying signature verification is a “extraordinary herculean effort which Maricopa County proudly accepts.”  

Olsen then called Jacqueline Onigkeit, a 2022 county signature verification worker.  

She said she got involved in elections in 2020 after hearing about “a lot of information about the elections not being valid.”   

She testified to verifying signatures in the primary and general election and noted she and the other signature verification workers were monitored, reminded they could be audited and would be pulled from the job if they were found to be approving too many or rejecting too many signatures.  

Onigkeit also said she would be tasked with going over batches of 250 signatures twice and signatures would often be sent back to them after they had rejected them to look over them again. 

Lake’s counsel also called Andrew Meyer, another signature verification worker. He said he verified and cured signatures but claimed “the math didn’t add up” in the number of signatures he cured.  

Both Meyer and Onigkeit said only three second-level signature verification workers oversaw their work and made broad allegations that the number of reviewers was not sufficient to address the number of ballots.  

Olsen also called Chris Handsel and Shelby Busch, of We the People Arizona Alliance, to testify to the data and video the organization had gathered on the county.  

Handsel was dismissed as the judge found his testimony veered into expert witness testimony despite being admitted as a fact witness. Busch testified to the data We the People Arizona Alliance had in its possession, including the video presented in opening by Olsen.  

On cross examination, Joseph LaRue, senior attorney for the county, asked if the organization had possession of 2020 affidavit envelopes, which is prohibited under state law.  

At that point, the judge reminded Busch of her ability to plead her Fifth Amendment right and shut down the line of questioning.  

The last witness was elections director Rey Valenzuela. Valenzuela testified to the county’s signature verification best practices and staffing during the 2022 election. 

Valenzuela said the county works to adhere to an 11-point signature review, but it is not mandated to do so by law. And in terms of staffing, he said there were 43 level-two signature verifiers, not three, and they were spread out across multiple offices.  

Valenzuela also added he himself had verified upwards of 1,600 signatures.  

The trial concluded for the day. And the parties are due back for a second day 9 a.m. tomorrow.