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AZGOP asks the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Kari Lake’s tabulator case


AZGOP asks the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Kari Lake’s tabulator case

Apr 12, 2024 | 6:59 pm ET
By Caitlin Sievers
AZGOP asks the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Kari Lake’s tabulator case
Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Republican Party of Arizona has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to accept Kari Lake’s tabulator case, claiming that lower courts across the country have set the bar too high for election challenge cases. 

Lake, a current U.S. Senate candidate who failed in her bid for Arizona governor in 2022, filed the suit in April 2022 alongside current state Senate candidate Mark Finchem, who also lost decisively in his bid for secretary of state that year. In the suit, Lake and Finchem claimed that the electronic ballot tabulators used in Maricopa County were “hackable” and asked the court to ban their use in the 2022 election. 

A federal judge threw the case out in August 2022 in a scathing ruling, saying their claims were mere “conjectural allegations of potential injuries.” In October 2023, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concurred with that ruling, calling the case frivolous. 

But in March, Lake and Finchem petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the lower courts’ dismissals, and to possibly grant them a “do-over” of the 2022 election. And on April 11, the Arizona Republican Party — along with the Georgia Republican Party and the Republican State Committee of Delaware — filed a brief in support, urging SCOTUS to weigh in on the case before this year’s November election.

Kari Lake and Mark Finchem appeal their tabulator case to the U.S. Supreme Court 

The AZGOP, which is struggling with major financial woes, recently went through a shakeup in leadership, after its former head Jeff DeWit was caught reportedly trying to bribe Lake to stay out of the U.S. Senate race. In January, he was replaced by Gina Swoboda, who worked for the Trump campaign in Arizona in 2020 and runs a nonprofit that has made false claims about discrepancies in voting records across the country.

Virginia attorney William J. Olson urged the court, on behalf of the three state Republican parties, to both take up the case and expedite it to ensure it’s resolved ahead of the 2024 election. 

“The proper conduct of the 2024 elections is now in the hands of Respondent Secretary of State (Adrian) Fontes, who could be expected to have little motivation to make necessary changes to election procedures, as his own election was achieved under the 2022 procedures,” Olson wrote. “Unless the motion to expedite is granted, and the petition acted on quickly, this Court’s decision could come too late to affect the 2024 election, which will suffer from the same irregularities as the 2022 election.” 

Olson argued that, since 2020, state and federal courts across the U.S. began using what he called “unreasonable standards” to determine whether election cases have legal standing to move forward.

“The decision of the district court of Arizona to dismiss Petitioners’ challenge to the conduct of the 2022 Arizona election is one of the clearest illustrations of this abusive line of cases which have required much more than well-pled allegations, brought by candidates, that elections were being conducted in violation of law,” Olson wrote. 

He even posed the idea that the Supreme Court itself had inadvertently set what the Republican parties view as too high of a standard when it dismissed an election case from Texas in 2020, wherein that state challenged the administration of elections in four other states. 

“Especially if it was this Court that inadvertently created this problem of lower courts refusing to decide legitimate election challenge cases and controversies brought to them, a course correction is now desperately needed to ensure elections are conducted in accordance with law,” the three GOP state parties wrote. 

Olson accused the federal judge who initially dismissed the case of setting “unattainable” standards and for shooting down the case before Lake and Finchem could gather evidence to prove their claims. 

The two Republicans repeatedly claimed that Dominion Voting Systems equipment used in Maricopa County, and in many other counties across the country, “have a built-in security breach enabling malicious actors to take control of elections, likely without detection,” but those claims have never been proven. 

Dominion and its software have been the target of right-wing election conspiracy theories for years now, and last spring Fox News agreed to pay Dominion $787 million over false claims it made about the company’s voting equipment. 

While Olson attempted to show that the lower court’s dismissal allowed Lake’s and Finchem’s alleged fears about the 2022 election to play out, the judges who presided over their separate lawsuits challenging the results of that election were not convinced

Olson even claimed that, in the 2022 election, there was a 11,592 difference between the official canvass and final voter file — but that number is actually pulled from an inaccurate analysis of the 2020 election results completed during Arizona’s partisan election audit, not from the 2022 election. 

“Petitioners report that they have identified multiple critical failures in the administration of Arizona’s 2022 election that rendered the results untrustworthy, compromising the voting rights of all Arizonans,” Olson wrote. 

But whatever evidence they identified was not convincing enough to grant any of the statewide Republican candidates who filed election challenges in Arizona any kind of relief. 

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to discuss the case privately on April 19, but John J. Martin, a law professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, previously told the Arizona Mirror that he was skeptical that the court would opt to take up the case. 

“I doubt that there are four justices eager to entertain what can best be described as speculative and conspiratorial allegations brought by Lake and Finchem,” Martin wrote in an email.