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Social media users shared incorrect prediction about election lawsuit resolution
If Your Time is short
When this video was first shared on social media, no decisions had been reached in an election lawsuit filed by former Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake. The judge had not overturned the election and ballots had not been thrown out.
On May 22, the day after the video was posted, a Maricopa County judge dismissed Lake’s lawsuit, ruling she had failed to prove her claim that election officials violated the law by not verifying signatures on mail ballots.
The judge reaffirmed that Democrat Katie Hobbs won the election.
On May 21, a judge had not yet issued a decision in an election lawsuit filed by former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake. But that didn’t deter some Facebook users from boldly proclaiming in all capital letters that the case had reached a dramatic resolution.
"ARIZONA JUDGE FORCED TO OVERTURN ELECTION - 274,000 BALLOTS MUST BE THROWN OUT," read the caption on a 45-minute video shared May 21 on Facebook.
The video provided more detail, stating that the election in question was the 2022 Arizona governor’s race between Lake, the Republican nominee, and Katie Hobbs, then the Democratic nominee and former secretary of state.
Lake lost to Hobbs by about 17,000 votes, or less than 1% of the vote. Since then, Lake has brought several unsuccessful election challenges.
When the video begins, the narrator says it is May 20. At that time, the judge presiding over Lake’s most recent election challenge had not yet issued a ruling. But the post and its inaccurate caption — which remained online as of May 24 — amassed more than 440,000 views and 15,000 likes.
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
(Screenshot from Facebook.)
The post was initially inaccurate because when it was shared, the case had not yet been resolved. The election had not been overturned and ballots had not been "thrown out."
Then, on May 22, the day after the video was posted, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter A. Thompson dismissed Lake’s case, ruling she had failed to prove her claim that Maricopa County violated the law by not verifying signatures on mail ballots.
During her 2022 campaign, Lake, a former Phoenix TV news anchor, repeated many of former President Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential election falsehoods. Following her loss to Hobbs, Lake filed a 70-page lawsuit that made a number of claims that the courts quickly dismissed.
Lake unsuccessfully appealed the dismissal in February. In March, the state’s Supreme Court declined to hear her election challenge — but sent one remaining claim, focused on signature verification in Maricopa County, back to the trial court for consideration.
On May 15, Thompson granted Lake a trial, allowing her legal team to try to prove the claim that Maricopa County election officials failed to adequately verify voter signatures on mail-in ballots.
Most Arizona voters cast their ballots by mail. In the 2020 presidential election — when there was a nationwide uptick in mail voting because of the COVID-19 pandemic — 89% of Arizona voters cast ballots early, largely by mail.
Arizona law requires election officials to compare voter signatures on mail ballot envelopes with the corresponding signatures in the voter registration records. According to the state’s election procedures manual, if officials identify inconsistencies between the signatures, they contact the voters and ask them to correct or confirm their signatures. When signatures are missing, county officials contact voters and allow them to "cure" their mail ballots.
Maricopa County had more than 100 workers verifying signatures during the 2022 election, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer previously told PolitiFact.
Lake’s lawsuit alleged that the signature verification process is flawed. She cited an April 2022 report by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who concluded that Maricopa’s signature verification in 2020 was "insufficient to guard against abuse" because of the speed with which workers verified signatures. In December 2020, a judge rejected allegations that Maricopa failed its signature verification requirements.
The number of ballots cited in the Facebook claim, 274,000, appears to have originated with information from Lake’s lawsuit. Lake's lawyers argued that, according to a witness, 274,000 ballots' signatures were verified in three seconds or fewer, which they claimed did not constitute the signature verification required by law.
Anticipating continued scrutiny, Maricopa County election officials worked to improve signature verification process before the 2022 midterms, VoteBeat Arizona reported. These improvements included requiring increased training for workers who verified signatures and hiring more workers to reduce the pressure to verify signatures rapidly.
Lake’s lawsuit also cited affidavits from three signature verification workers who claimed the process was flawed. Those claims were not proof of wrongdoing; they were anecdotal and based on those workers’ impressions.
Following a three-day trial, Thompson concluded that Lake and her lawyers failed to prove "by clear and convincing evidence" that election officials responsible for canvassing ballots had engaged in misconduct and that the misconduct had affected the results of the election.
Witness testimony "makes abundantly clear that level one and level two signature review did take place in some fashion," he wrote. A witness expressed concern that the review was done quickly and not as thoroughly as she would have liked, Thompson wrote, "but it was done."
He dismissed Lake’s case and reaffirmed that Hobbs won the election. The evidence Lake provided to the court did not support her election challenge, Thompson wrote.
Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell asked the court May 23 for sanctions and legal fees against Lake and her team for repeatedly making false statements about signature verification and election fraud.
A May 21 Facebook video’s caption claimed that an Arizona judge was "forced to overturn" an election and ruled "274,000 ballots must be thrown out."
The post was inaccurate when it was first shared because the case it referred to — Lake’s remaining 2022 election challenge — had not yet been resolved.
The post remains inaccurate because May 22, the judge dismissed Lake’s case, ruling she had failed to prove her claim that Maricopa County violated the law by not verifying signatures on mail ballots. The election has not been overturned and ballots have not been thrown out.
We rate these claims False.
RELATED: Kari Lake’s lawsuit does not show Arizona failed to verify signatures on mail ballots
RELATED: Voting by mail has been popular in Arizona for decades. Now the state GOP wants to ban it
Facebook post, May 21, 2023
Email interview with Paul Bender, professor of law at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, May 23, 2023
PolitiFact, Kari Lake’s lawsuit does not show Arizona failed to verify signatures on mail ballots, Dec. 15, 2022
Arizona state law, 16-550. Receipt of voter's ballot; cure period; tracking system, accessed May 23, 2023
Arizona Capitol Times, Lake’s attorneys argue more than 270k signatures county verified in less than three seconds, May 19, 2023
Arizona Capitol Times, Lake says she will appeal judge’s ruling confirming she lost election, May 23, 2023
NBC 12 News, Lake's bid to overturn election defeat now in judge's hands after 3-day trial, May 20, 2023
Tweet from Jen Fifield, May 22, 2023
CBS News, Kari Lake's last election loss claim dismissed by Arizona judge, May 22, 2023
Votebeat Arizona, Why Kari Lake is still, six months after losing, in Arizona courts arguing the 2022 election was stolen, May 17, 2023
The Associated Press, Judge dismisses Kari Lake’s final claim in election loss for Arizona governor, May 23, 2023
Fox10 Phoenix, Sanctions sought for Kari Lake following latest 2022 election lawsuit defeat: Here's what you should know, May 22, 2023
AZ Family, Judge dismisses 8 of 10 claims in Kari Lake’s election lawsuit, Dec. 19, 2022
AZ Mirror, Supreme Court dismisses all but one of Kari Lake’s election claims, March 22, 2023
AZ Mirror, Kari Lake granted new trial, must prove Maricopa County ignored signature-verification rules, May 15, 2023
AZ Mirror, Kari Lake loses election challenge appeal, Feb. 16, 2023
The Hill, Judge dismisses Kari Lake’s election lawsuit, Dec. 12, 2024
NBC 12 News, Judge orders trial this week in Kari Lake's challenge to Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs' victory, Dec. 19, 2022
Fox10 Phoenix, Kari Lake loses 2022 election lawsuit against Katie Hobbs, Dec. 21, 2022
Office of the Attorney General, Letter from Mark Brnovich, April 6, 2022
Superior Court for the state of Arizona in Maricopa County, Kelli Ward v. Constance Jackson, Dec. 4, 2020
Maricopa County, Statement from Chairman Hickman on Lake v. Hobbs Case, May 22, 2023
KGUN 9 ABC, Kari Lake announces ballot chasing campaign, May 24, 2023
The New York Times, Arizona Judge Tosses Kari Lake’s 2022 Election Lawsuit, May 23, 2023
Votebeat Arizona, Maricopa County knew its voter signature review would be scrutinized. Here’s how it tried to improve before 2022, March 30, 2023
Arizona Secretary of State, 2019 Elections Procedures Manual, accessed May 24, 2023
U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Chapter 13: Canvassing and certifying an election, accessed May 24, 2023
AZ Family, Maricopa County seeking sanctions against Kari Lake and legal team, May 23, 2023
Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County, Kari Lake v Katie Hobbs and Maricopa officials, Dec. 9, 2022
Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County, Judge Peter A Thompson’s ruling on Kari Lake v Katie Hobbs and Maricopa officials, May 22, 2023
AZ Mirror, Lake election trial ends, judge to decide if she met burden of proof, May 19, 2023
Axios, Kari Lake fails in legal challenge to Arizona governor's race loss, May 23, 2023
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