Arizona’s Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake and Secretary of State nominee Mark Finchem have been sanctioned by an Obama-appointed U.S. District Judge John Tuchi in a lawsuit they filed to prevent the use of electronic voting machines in the Arizona November election. The Lake campaign said this is a message to those who lose an election not to take their case to court.

“This case is not about money or gain. It was essentially a public interest lawsuit seeking electoral integrity. It is very very rare to sanction a party in public interest suits,” said the Lake campaign in a statement shared with The Arizona Sun Times. “All in all this reads like an angry Obama appointee who wants to send a message. The message is if you lose shut up and don’t come to court. The message is not that you lost a case or acted in bad faith.”

Lake and Finchem initially filed this lawsuit back in April 2022. The lawsuit alleged that electronic voting machines used in Arizona’s elections are flawed and pose the risk of hackers tampering with election results. The complaint requested that Arizona use “tried and true” paper ballot counting methods such as live-streamed hand counts rather than electronic machines.

However, in May, Maricopa County alerted the plaintiffs that their lawsuit was “frivolous” and that they would file a motion to dismiss it and a motion for sanctions should the plaintiffs not dismiss it themselves. When that did not happen, the defendants and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s lawsuit in early June.

Despite efforts from the plaintiffs to still prevent the use of electronic voting machines, the court sided with the defendants in August and dismissed the lawsuit. The county also moved to get sanctions against the plaintiffs because the defendants believed their goal was “the improper purpose of undermining confidence in elections and furthering their political campaigns.”

Lake did not give in, alleging issues with the machines still needed to be addressed; meanwhile, Finchem accused the county of weaponizing the court. The two ultimately tried to appeal the dismissal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in September, although the results remained the same.

According to Tuchi’s order, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 states that any motions filed to the district court cannot be for an improper reason, must make claims warranted by existing law, and have contentions supported by specific evidence. If the court determines this rule has been violated, it may impose an appropriate sanction.

Tuchi argues that the plaintiffs made false implications about Arizona’s use of paper ballots and made claims about voting machines based on “conjecture and speculation” and allegations “unrelated to elections in Arizona.” However, he did not find that plaintiffs brought this case forward for improper purposes, such as political gain.

Ultimately, Tuchi that sanctions are warranted because the plaintiffs made “false, misleading, and unsupported” claims in their complaint.

“Imposing sanctions in this case is not to ignore the importance of putting in place procedures to ensure that our elections are secure and reliable,” Tuchi wrote in his order. “It is to make clear that the court will not condone litigants ignoring the steps that Arizona has already taken toward this end and furthering false narratives that baselessly undermine public trust at a time of increasing disinformation about, and distrust in, the democratic process. It is to send a message to those who might file similarly baseless suits in the future.”

The plaintiffs are ordered to pay the attorney’s fees incurred by the defendants, although it is currently unclear what this price tag will be.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Kari Lake” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.