Kari Lake 'excited' over election trial but Katie Hobbs won't have to testify

Democratic Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs ran on a platform that includes government transparency, but she and her staff didn’t answer questions about the doctor records issue.
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Kari Lake told fans Tuesday she was excited to prove elections are "truly corrupt" at an upcoming two-day trial ordered in her lawsuit challenging election results that show she lost to Democratic rival Katie Hobbs.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson tossed eight of 10 counts in Lake's lawsuit Monday but allowed two to proceed, giving Lake a chance to prove her theory of intentional election misconduct in a two-day trial.

"Christmas came early yesterday," Lake told people attending a Turning Point USA rally in Phoenix. "This is so historic."

Lake added that Hobbs can't "duck out" of testifying and that Hobbs "will have to take the stand." But her legal team on Tuesday withdrew its subpoena to force Hobbs' testimony in the case.

Hobbs will not be testifying, the Secretary of State's Office confirmed.

The trial is scheduled for Thompson's Mesa courtroom Wednesday and Thursday; lawyers were expected to submit witness schedules and other details by Tuesday. A separate order Monday by Thompson turned down Hobbs' motion to avoid testifying in the trial; her lawyers filed an emergency appeal before Lake's team withdrew the subpoena. The appeal noted that Lake's remaining claims had nothing "whatsoever" to do with Hobbs or "personal knowledge she may have."

Even without Hobbs testimony, which − despite Lake's claim − could have been done virtually, the short trial was welcomed enthusiastically by Lake and other promoters of election-conspiracy claims.

"We're taking these bastards to trial," Lake told the Turning Point crowd. "We're really excited. We have an excellent case."

Neither she nor lawyers Bryan Blehm and Kurt Olsen returned a request by The Arizona Republic for comment.

A video circulated on Twitter by Lake supporters shows conspiracy-promoter state Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, throwing her hands in the air excitedly as she announced the judge's decision Monday to attendees at the Turning Point event.

Hobbs declined to comment directly, but campaign manager Nicole Demont said in a written statement to The Republic the governor-elect is "laser-focused" on preparing for the first day of her administration.

"The voters made their choice clear last month, and we’re confident the will of the voters will prevail when the contest process ends," Demont said.

Meanwhile, a review of a limited number of Nov. 8 ballots by Lake's team that was previously approved by the judge proceeded behind closed doors on Tuesday.

What to know about the upcoming trial

Lake, the Trump-endorsed former television news anchor, ran a campaign against Hobbs that fueled Trump supporters' notions of election fraud and indicated she would not accept a Hobbs' win. She filed her lawsuit after the Nov. 8 election that showed she lost to her Democratic competitor and current Secretary of State Hobbs by about 17,000 votes.

The 70-page lawsuit, filed Dec. 9 in Maricopa County Superior Court, contends that "hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots infected" the election. With its thousands of pages of exhibits, Lake's case relies on witness declarations and so-called expert analysis. The defendants include Hobbs, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, the five members of the county Board of Supervisors, and Scott Jarrett, county elections director.

Lake wants the court to declare her the rightful winner, or order a new election.

The trial is slated to begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the court's Mesa facility, located at 222 East Javelina Avenue, and is expected to continue Thursday. Each day is scheduled for 6.5 hours of testimony, with breaks.

Events will be livestreamed from the court's website: Go to https://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/calendar/today/ on the day of the trial and scroll to the Lake case. Some seats will be available in the Mesa courtroom on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The public could see, though not hear, the ballot review taking place Tuesday at the county's election facility in livestream video at: https://recorder.maricopa.gov/elections/electionlivevideo/

Lake's legal team, along with observers from Hobbs' camp, inspected a small number of printed and early ballots from the election, including 50 that were marked "spoiled" on Election Day.

What allegations is Lake making about the election?

Lake's lawsuit doesn't allege "fraud" specifically, but does maintain that an unknown county employee interfered illegally with the printers, "resulting in some number of lost votes" for Lake. She also alleged that an unknown number of ballots were added to the county's total by employees of Runbeck Election Services, a Phoenix company that provides election equipment for the county, and that receipts of delivery were not maintained in violation of state law.

Court documents show Lake's legal team plans to have more than a dozen witnesses testify. The list includes election attorney Mark Sonnenklar, who will introduce declarations from witnesses who observed problems during the election, "and charts derived from such declarations."

Heather Honey, the founder of Verity Vote, a conservative election watchdog group, will play for the court of a voice message from "Betty, an employee of the Maricopa County Election’s Department."

Printer problems that affected ballots struck about a third of polling places in Maricopa County during the election, though county officials say no voters were disenfranchised.

When tabulators began rejecting some printed ballots on Nov. 8, creating frustration and long lines at some polling places, county officials instructed voters who worried their ballots might not count to leave them in a batch called "door three," where they were retrieved later and counted.

Large numbers of Republican voters followed the instructions of Lake and other conspiracy-minded candidates to vote in-person on Election Day rather than to mail their ballots, which made them more vulnerable to any polling-place issues.

County Recorder Richer is out of the country but will testify on the morning of Dec. 21 via video, said county spokeswoman Ilena Haber.

"We are looking forward to the process playing out," Haber said on behalf of the office.

Reach the reporter at rstern@arizonarepublic.com or 480-276-3237. Follow him on Twitter @raystern.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Katie Hobbs won't have to testify in Kari Lake election trial