Authored by Tom Ozimek via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
A choose has discovered that Arizona’s signature matching course of for mail-in ballots is illegal, delivering what the plaintiffs within the lawsuit referred to as a “massive win” for election integrity.
Yavapai County Superior Court Judge John Napper issued a ruling final week (pdf) in a lawsuit in opposition to Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes introduced by public curiosity group Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections (RITE), which alleged that Mr. Fontes broke the legislation concerning mail-in poll signature verification procedures.
Specifically, the group argued that Mr. Fontes’ interpretation of “registration record” within the Secretary of State’s Elections Procedures Manual was unreasonably broad and improperly expanded the pool of signatures to which an early poll affidavit signature may very well be in contrast, growing the danger of false positives.
“While state law requires county recorders to match mail-ballot signatures with signatures in the voter’s ‘registration record,’ the Secretary instructed them to use a broader and less reliable universe of comparison signatures,” RITE mentioned in a Sept. 5 assertion on the courtroom ruling.
“That means the Secretary was requiring ballots to be counted despite using a signature that did not match anything in the voter’s registration record. This was a clear violation of state law,” the group added.
Former gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who sued Mr. Fontes and Maricopa County officers over the signature verification course of that was utilized in final 12 months’s election, took to X to submit in regards to the determination.
“A court just found that Arizona’s signature matching process is UNLAWFUL,” Ms. Lake mentioned.
“This is what happens when you don’t back down from a fight,” the Kari Lake War Room account mentioned in a post on X.
Mr. Fontes’ workplace didn’t instantly reply to a request for touch upon the ruling.
Dispute Over ‘Registration Record’
Court paperwork present that Mr. Fontes argued that the authorized definition of “registration record” is ambiguous and so he’s entitled to supply steering on its interpretation.
“Does the legislature’s use of the expansive term registration ‘record’ really mean the more restrictive (but unused) term registration ‘form’ for purposes of verifying a signature on an early voted ballot,” reads a movement to dismiss (pdf) the RITE lawsuit filed by Mr. Fontes’ attorneys.
“The answer is ‘no,'” the attorneys argued, itemizing causes that embrace the Secretary of State’s statutory authority to conduct elections pretty and impartially.
But the choose disagreed with the reasoning.
“This argument fails because there is no ambiguity in the statute,” Mr. Napper wrote in his opinion.
He added that the Arizona “statute is clear and unambiguous” in that it requires the recorder to “review the voter’s registration card” and never different paperwork bearing the voter’s signature.
Mr. Napper additionally famous that Mr. Fontes’ signature-matching course of within the Election Procedures Manual “contradicts the plain language” of Arizona elections legal guidelines by permitting signature matching with paperwork which have “nothing to do with the act of registering.”
Accordingly, the choose denied Mr. Fontes’ movement to dismiss the lawsuit.
In a press release, Derek Lyons, CEO of RITE, referred to as the choice a “huge victory toward securing the elections that Arizonans deserve, which are elections they can trust.”
“RITE will build on this victory to continue to fight in court for elections that are administered according to democratically enacted laws, not illegal partisan commands,” he added.
The group mentioned in a press release that the ruling reveals that Mr. Fontes should change his signature verification procedures earlier than the subsequent election to “protect the integrity of Arizona’s mail-in balloting process” or face additional authorized penalties.
It’s unclear whether or not the ruling could have any implications for Ms. Lake’s lawsuit in opposition to Mr. Fontes and Maricopa County officers over the signature verification course of that was utilized in final 12 months’s gubernatorial election.
Kari Lake Angle
Election knowledge from the November 2022 election reveals that Ms. Lake was behind Democrat Katie Hobbs—who has since been declared Arizona governor—by about 17,000 votes.
Ms. Lake and her authorized staff argued there was a flood of mail-in ballots in Maricopa County at a time when there have been too few employees to confirm poll signatures correctly.
Her attorneys contended that there was proof that lower-level screeners who discovered inconsistencies in signatures ran them up the chain of command, the place they have been ignored by higher-level verifiers.
Ms. Lake’s marketing campaign staff shared a video of what seems to be a signature reviewer clicking via signatures shortly, about one per second, suggesting that the reviewers weren’t “treating the integrity of your vote with the respect it deserves.”
Her attorneys argued that Maricopa County officers finally accepted 1000’s of ballots that had been rejected earlier by employees for having mismatched signatures.
Ms. Lake sued Ms. Hobbs, together with Mr. Fontes and Maricopa County election officers, requesting final 12 months’s election outcomes be thrown out or that she be declared the winner.
But Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter A. Thompson dominated in opposition to Ms. Lake, arguing that her staff supplied inadequate proof to again their declare and that the quick time spent on verifying every signature wasn’t related and so did not quantity to a violation of the legislation.
Mr. Thompson additionally wrote within the ruling that the order quantities to “confirming the election of Katie Hobbs as Arizona Governor.”
On May 31, Ms. Lake filed a discover of enchantment, with litigation ongoing.