Cases December 8, 2022

Lake v. Hobbs – Electronic Voting Machines (AZ)

Issue Areas

On April 22, 2022, Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem filed a complaint against Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and members of the Maricopa County and Pima County Boards of Supervisors in the U.S. District Court in the District of Arizona requesting declaratory and injunctive relief to stop the use of accessible voting and electronic ballot tabulation machines in the 2022 midterm election and instead require election administrators to count all ballots by hand. Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on May 4. 

States United served as pro-bono co-counsel for Secretary Hobbs alongside Coppersmith Brockelman PLC. In a June 8 motion to dismiss the amended complaint, Secretary Hobbs made the case that: 

  • The alleged “vulnerabilities” in voting and tabulation machines are speculative, inaccurate, and misleading. In fact, in Arizona, the vast majority of voters cast their votes on hand-marked paper ballots and even those votes cast on accessible voting machines, such as votes cast by voters with disabilities, are recorded on voter-verified paper ballots. In addition, the voting and tabulation machines undergo rigorous logic and accuracy testing before and after each election; 
  • The plaintiffs brought their claims too late and too close to the start of the election; 
  • The plaintiffs lack standing to file a complaint on behalf of “all Arizona voters” and rely on a “speculative chain of possibilities” where things could go wrong throughout the election process but have not; 
  • The plaintiffs’ request that election administrators count each ballot by hand instead of using an electronic tabulation machine is a policy preference and not for the court to decide; and  
  • The plaintiffs’ claims violate the 11th Amendment and should not have been filed in federal court, given that they demand compliance with existing Arizona state law. 

The plaintiffs then, on June 15, filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to temporarily stop the use of electronic tabulation machines. Secretary Hobbs filed an opposition to this motion on June 22. The court held a hearing on the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and the defendants’ motions to dismiss on July 21.  

On August 12, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors filed a motion for sanctions against plaintiffs Kari Lake and Mark Finchem and their counsel for allegations in their complaint that are “unfounded, asserted without a reasonable inquiry, and asserted for an improper purpose.” 

On August 26, U.S. District Judge John J. Tuchi granted Secretary Hobbs’ and Maricopa County’s motions to dismiss, holding, among other things, that Lake and Finchem lacked standing. In his order, Judge Tuchi noted that they put forward only “conjectural allegations of potential injuries that are in any event barred by the Eleventh Amendment, and seek relief that the Court cannot grant under the Purcell principle.” The court also denied the plaintiffsrequest for a preliminary injunction. 

On December 1, Judge Tuchi granted Maricopa County’s motion for sanctions against lawyers for Lake and Finchem for their “frivolous” lawsuit. He also ordered them to pay for Maricopa County’s attorneys’ fees. Tuchi wrote that the sanctions were meant to make clear that the court won’t condone litigants “furthering false narratives that baselessly undermine public trust at a time of increasing disinformation about, and distrust in, the democratic process.” 

Latest Update

The plaintiffs appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where it is currently pending.

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