Kari Lake on Wednesday opened her (second) trial challenging the 2022 election … with a complete and total fizzle.
Her attorney, Kurt Olsen, told the judge he’d be presenting evidence that Maricopa County didn’t verify the voter signatures on “hundreds of thousands” of early ballots, instead hiring signature reviewers who just went through the motions while the county looked on.
“This isn’t a question of not doing it well enough,” he told judge. “They’re simply not doing signature verification.”
Then Olson called his first witness: A “whistleblower” who proceeded to annihilate Lake’s case.
Lake’s star witness was great … for the defense
Jacqueline Onigkeit, who worked as a level one reviewer during last year’s election, spent more than an hour explaining the lengths to which county went to verify signatures — the weeklong training of workers, the two shifts of level one reviewers, three levels of signature review, the admonition to get it right.
“They (supervisors) told us, ‘You need to be very cautious. You need to pay attention to what you’re doing and remember that whatever you reject or approve, you can be called in to testify,’ ” Onigkeit testified.
As a witness for the defense, Onigkeit was dynamite.
The problem is, she was supposed to be the star witness for Lake.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson laid out what Lake needs to do to win this, her second try at booting Gov. Katie Hobbs out of office.
She has to prove that the county didn’t bother to verify any signatures.
“The Court can — and does — hold Plaintiff to her counsels’ representation of the scope of her claim at Trial, that no signature verification was conducted,” he wrote, in a ruling issued on Tuesday.
Video also bolsters Maricopa County’s case
Two hours in and this trial is already over.
Or it should be.
Olsen, in his opening statement, told Thompson that signature reviewers were clicking through images of comparison signatures “as fast as they could tap the keyboard.”
As a result, he said, more than 274,000 ballots were approved in less than three seconds each.
Then he showed a video of a guy who appears to be doing just that.
It might have been an impressive visual — except for the fact that Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Tom Liddy told the judge the guy was pulled from the job for not doing the job.
That just bolstered the county’s case that it was taking signature verification seriously.
There was no pressure to accept signatures
As Lake’s two “whistleblowers” bolstered the county’s case.
Onigkeit told Thompson that signature reviewers were “bombarded” with ballots the day after the election but that they were repeatedly warned about moving too quickly.
Any signatures they rejected were kicked up to level two reviewers, who would sometimes kick them back for a second look.
But even then, she said, there was no pressure on level one reviewers to accept those signatures. Meanwhile, there was a third level of people auditing their work every day for quality control.
“I don’t know who worked level 3,” she testified. “I just know we were informed … that we were being audited every day and if we were approving too many signatures or rejecting too many signatures we’d be called into an office and talked to and if it happened again, we’d be let go.”
Second whistleblower also verified signatures
Lake’s second “whistleblower,” Andy Myers, was no more helpful to Lake’s case.
He confirmed that he both verified and cured signatures though he was surprised to see the signature verification process wrapped up just three days after the election.
Myers said 298,000 early ballots came in on Election Day yet by Friday, the county told workers the job had been completed.
“It was kind of a shock,” he said. “They walked in on Friday to tell us, we got it done. I told my wife that morning that I was going be working weekends because of the volume and nothing happened.”
Actually, a lot was happening.
This is more ‘bust’ than blockbuster
Maricopa County Elections Director Rey Valenzuela testified that signature review was going on in three county offices, not just the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center where Myers was working. Valenzuela said the county had upwards of 60 or 70 employees reviewing signatures.
He himself verified 1,600 signatures.
None of which really is relevant at this point.
According to the judge, Lake has to prove that Maricopa County didn’t validate any signatures.
According to Lake’s whistleblowers, that’s just not the case.
“I was very focused on verifying signatures and making sure the signatures matched,” Onigkeit said.
As blockbusters go, Kari Lake is halfway there.
If you count the “bust” part.