False graphic for claim that judge overturned an Arizona election.001 | Fact Check: Facebook posts - Social media users shared incorrect prediction about election lawsuit resolution | The Paradise

Fact Check: Facebook posts – Social media users shared incorrect prediction about election lawsuit resolution

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.

What did Lake’s lawsuit allege?

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. 

What did the judge rule?

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.

Our ruling

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

Source: PolitiFact.

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