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Kari Lake’s lawsuit does not show Arizona failed to verify signatures on mail ballots
If Your Time is short
Kari Lake, the 2022 Republican nominee for Arizona governor, filed a lawsuit after she lost the election that asked a court to declare her the winner or order Maricopa County to set a new election.
Lake’s lawsuit alleges Maricopa County mishandled mail ballot signature verification, citing what it said were the statements of three signature verification workers who said the process was flawed. A judge has yet to rule on those allegations, but Maricopa officials disputed the allegations in her lawsuit.
Lake’s complaint echoed allegations from the 2020 presidential election. A judge rejected a 2020 lawsuit that alleged Maricopa improperly verified signatures.
After losing the race for Arizona governor, Kari Lake filed a lawsuit asking a court to declare her the winner or order a new election.
Jim Hoft, founder of The Gateway Pundit, a right-wing website, praised the lawsuit in an interview on Steve Bannon’s "War Room" podcast. Hoft referred to allegations in the lawsuit about voting by mail and said, "There is basically no signature validation going on in Arizona."
A Facebook post that featured Hoft’s interview said, "Kari Lake’s momentous lawsuit exposes Arizona used no signature verification."
Lake’s lawsuit attempts to cast suspicion on the signature verification process for mail ballots in Maricopa County, but it doesn’t "expose" that the state (or the county) failed to use signature verification.
"The many voters who had a cured signature can attest that Maricopa County verifies signatures," Maricopa County recorder Stephen Richer told PolitiFact. "The over 100 workers — of all political parties — who verified signatures in the recent election can attest that Maricopa County verifies signatures."
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Lake, the Republican nominee for governor, lost to Katie Hobbs, the Democratic nominee and secretary of state, by about 17,000 votes, or less than 1%. Lake, a former Phoenix TV news anchor, ran a campaign that repeated many of Donald Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election.
Lake filed the 70-page lawsuit Dec. 9 in Maricopa County Superior Court against Hobbs and election officials in Maricopa, the county that includes Phoenix and accounts for about 60% of Arizona’s voters.
The lawsuit is correct that Maricopa County had equipment problems on Election Day, when printers used ink that was too light for ballots to be read by tabulators. But voters had options for casting ballots, including placing them in a secure container to be tabulated later or going to another vote center.
Most Arizona voters cast ballots by mail. The lawsuit argues that the process election workers used to verify signatures was flawed.
Arizona law requires local election officials to compare voters’ signatures on mail ballot envelopes with signatures in the voters’ registration records. If the signatures are inconsistent, county officials contact the voters and ask them to correct or confirm their signatures. If signatures are missing, county officials also contact voters and allow them to "cure" their mail ballots. These steps are explained in the state’s election procedures manual.
Some of Lake’s allegations about signature verification stem from the 2020 election. Her lawsuit cites an April 2022 report by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who wrote that Maricopa’s signature verification in 2020 was "insufficient to guard against abuse" because sometimes workers had only a few seconds to verify signatures.
Richer, the county recorder, countered that Brnovich’s conclusion that the amount of time was insufficient was not based on any study or reports from other jurisdictions. A judge in December 2020 rejected allegations that Maricopa failed in its signature verifying duties.
Many of the lawsuit’s allegations about 2022 stem from affidavits from three signature verification workers. PolitiFact did not see the affidavits — only how Lake’s lawsuit characterized them. The lawsuit said the workers reported that 15% to 40% of ballots were rejected but far fewer appeared to be sent for curing. The workers said managers would overrule them and "unreject" ballots.
Richer said more than 100 trained employees contributed to first-level signature verification. (Lake’s lawsuit said there were 32 such workers. We were not immediately sure what led to the discrepancy.)
"Combined, they spent thousands of hours on signature verification," Richer said. "Even as people clamored for faster results, the Elections Department continued to adhere to its signature verification practices, prioritizing accuracy over speed." (Final results for the Nov. 8 election were posted by Nov. 21. Widespread use of mail voting, including mail ballots dropped off Election Day, slowed vote tabulation).
First-level signature reviewers have access to three signatures from the voter’s file. If the first-level reviewer flags the signature, it goes to a manager.
Managers have many years of signature verification experience and, unlike the first-level reviewers, have access to all signatures in the voters’ files, Richer said.
If the manager also deems the signature to be nonmatching, then the Elections Department will attempt to contact the voter to cure the signature. Of the more than 14,600 signatures found to be nonmatching, the Elections Department cured more than 87% by communicating with the voter.
The court expects to hear a motion by Hobbs to dismiss the case Dec. 19. If the case proceeds, evidentiary hearings will take place later in the week.
We don’t know how the court will rule on Lake’s lawsuit, but a judge in the 2020 lawsuit shows that plaintiffs have a high burden of proof in election contests. Judge Randall Warner wrote that "the actions of election officials are presumed to be free from fraud and misconduct" and that the plaintiff "must prove that the misconduct rose to the level of fraud, or that the result would have been different had proper procedures been used."
A Facebook post said Lake’s lawsuit "exposes Arizona used no signature verification."
That’s not what the lawsuit said, and the assertion that Arizona didn’t use signature verification is wrong. Arizona law requires county officials to verify signatures on mail ballots and Maricopa County had at least 100 workers involved in signature verification.
Lake’s lawsuit alleges that Maricopa’s signature verification process is flawed. The lawsuit cites a report by the state attorney general who concluded that Maricopa’s signature verification in 2020 was inefficient to guard against abuse. But a judge found the county followed the process for verifying signatures.
Many of the allegations in Lake’s lawsuit about 2022 stem from signed affidavits from three signature verification workers who concluded the verification process was flawed. These are anecdotal reports about their impressions of the process and are not proof of wrongdoing.
A judge has yet to rule on the allegations in Lake’s lawsuit, but we found no evidence that Arizona used no signature verification.
We rate this statement False.
RELATED: Kari Lake claimed Maricopa County voters were ‘disenfranchised.’ Experts disagree.
RELATED: Kari Lake’s Truth-O-Meter
RELATED: All of our fact-checks about Arizona
Facebook post, Dec. 11, 2022
Superior Court for the state of Arizona in Maricopa County, Kari Lake v Katie Hobbs and Maricopa officials, Dec. 9, 2022
Superior Court for the state of Arizona in Maricopa County, Kelli Ward v. Constance Jackson, Dec. 4, 2020
Arizona state law, Article 8 Early Voting 16-550, Accessed Dec. 13, 2022
Arizona secretary of state, Signature verification guide, 2020
Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, Letter to Attorney General Mark Brnovich, May 4, 2022
Maricopa County, Maricopa County Election Results Updated, Nov. 21, 2022
Reuters, Fact Check-Maricopa County says bipartisan staff transport mail-in ballots for preparation of signature verification, Nov. 22, 2022
USA Today, Kari Lake claims 'intentional misconduct' in lawsuit seeking to overturn AZ governor's race loss, Dec. 10, 2022
Arizona Republic opinion by Laurie Roberts, Kari Lake's lawsuit shows she's desperate ... and delusional, Dec. 12, 2022
VoteBeat, Too big of a job: Why Maricopa County’s ballot printers failed on Election Day, Dec. 8, 2022
Arizona Mirror, Legal experts: Kari Lake’s lawsuit to overturn the election is ‘poorly written,’ lacking details and evidence, Dec. 13, 2022
The Bulwark, Kari Lake’s Trumpian Lawsuit, Dec. 13, 2022
Superior Court Maricopa County, Docket CV2022-095403, Accessed Dec. 14, 2022
Email interview, Stephen Richer, Maricopa County recorder, Dec. 13, 2022
Email interview, Megan Gilbertson, Maricopa County elections spokesperson, Dec. 13, 2022
Email interview, Sophia Solis, spokesperson for Arizona secretary of state Katie Hobbs, Dec. 13, 2022
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Kari Lake’s lawsuit does not show Arizona failed to verify signatures on mail ballots
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