The claim: Kari Lake's lawsuit shows Arizona used 'no signature verification' in midterms
The caption of a Dec. 12 Facebook video (direct link, archived link) claims a lawsuit filed by former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake proves that the state did not use signature verification in the recent midterm election.
"Kari Lake’s Momentous Lawsuit Exposes Arizona Used No Signature Verification, Jim Hoft Reports," reads the video's caption.
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Our rating: False
Lake's lawsuit, which was ultimately dismissed, alleged that Maricopa County mishandled the signature verification process and that improper ballots were counted during the midterms. It never alleged that Arizona used "no signature verification." Election officials say all mail-in-ballots were signature-verified in the midterms.
Lawsuit argues that Maricopa County mishandled signature verification
The Facebook video shows an interview between Jim Hoft, founder of The Gateway Pundit, a website that has previously published misinformation, and conservative commentator Steve Bannon on his podcast, "Bannon's War Room." During the interview, they discuss a lawsuit filed by Lake – who lost Arizona’s 2022 gubernatorial race – that accused Democrat winner Katie Hobbs and Maricopa County election officials of election fraud.
But the lawsuit was dismissed by a judge on Dec. 24 following a two-day trial. That was after the social media post in question, but the post is still wrong since the lawsuit did not allege that Arizona used “no signature verification,” according to Jerald Lentini, an elections and criminal defense attorney.
Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer told USA TODAY in a direct message that all mail-in-ballots were signature-verified in the midterms.
Rather, the lawsuit claimed that the signature match law wasn't followed strictly enough by Maricopa County elections workers, and that ballots from envelopes where the signature didn't exactly match voter registration records were still counted, Lentini said. This is reflected in points 15 and 16 of the lawsuit.
Arizona law says that election officers must compare the signature on a mail-in-ballot envelope with the one in the voter's registration record and determine if the signatures match. If there are inconsistencies, the elections office must give voters a chance to correct the discrepancy – a process known as ballot curing.
The state’s election procedures manual also says that election officials should consult "additional known signatures from other official election documents in the voter's registration record,” such as signature rosters and early ballot requests.
Lake's lawsuit alleged that it's illegal for elections staff to match signatures on ballot envelopes to any samples other than the voter's registration record. But that argument was dismissed under a procedural technicality, Lentini said.
"When a party knows well before an election that there's a procedure in place for how it's to be run, and they don't challenge that procedure before voting starts, the courts are almost always going to throw it out," Lentini said. "That sort of argument needs to be raised before an election, not after one."
Lake's lawsuit also claimed that some ballots had been accepted based on signatures from impermissible sources in Maricopa County, but she couldn't say how many ballots that might have bee, or what other samples might have been used, according to Lentini.
In addition, the lawsuit references an April report from Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich that alleged Maricopa County’s signature verification process in the 2020 election was “insufficient to guard against abuse,” as workers only had a few seconds to verify signatures. But a judge had previously ruled in the 2020 case Ward v. Jackson that there’s no evidence of misconduct in the county’s signature matching practice.
The judge in Lake's case ruled that Lake’s legal team never offered clear and convincing evidence showing the election was rigged against her, the Arizona Republic reported.
USA TODAY has debunked other claims of purported fraud in Maricopa County, including baseless assertions that the county lost 291,390 votes and that a video shows ballots breaking the chain of custody in the county.
USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.
PolitiFact also debunked the claim.
Our fact-check sources:
Jerald Lentini, Dec. 30, 2022, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Megan Gilbertson, Dec. 22, 2022, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Stephen Richer, Jan. 3, Text message exchange with USA TODAY
Arizona Republic, Dec. 24, 2022, Judge tosses Kari Lake's election-challenge in Arizona governor's race
Superior Court for the state of Arizona in Maricopa County, Dec. 9, 2022, Kari Lake v Katie Hobbs and Maricopa officials
Superior Court for the state of Arizona in Maricopa County, Dec. 4, 2020, Kelli Ward v. Constance Jackson
Arizona state law, Accessed Jan. 4, Article 8 Early Voting 16-550
State of Arizona, Oct. 1, 2021, Elections Procedures Manual
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, May 4, 2022, Letter to Attorney General Mark Brnovich
Office of the Attorney General, April 6, 2022, Interim Report
PolitiFact, Dec. 15, 2022, Kari Lake’s lawsuit does not show Arizona failed to verify signatures on mail ballots
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim about Kari Lake's lawsuit circulates online