HomePoliticsElection Director Accidentally Drops 2020 Bombshell During Kari Lake Trial

Election Director Accidentally Drops 2020 Bombshell During Kari Lake Trial

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Wednesday during the trial of Republican Kari Lake’s election challenge, Maricopa County Elections Director Reynaldo Valenzuela testified that mail-in ballot reviews were conducted at the homes of election officials in 2020 without any observers present. This, according to Valenzuela, took place without public oversight.

Additionally, Valenzuela confirmed that officials still possess the ability to do so at this time.

Katie Hobbs, the Democratic candidate for governor, won the November election by a margin of approximately 17,000 votes, or 0.7% of the more than 2.5 million votes cast in the state. Lake is contesting Hobbs’ victory.

In March, the Arizona Supreme Court remitted to the trial court the question of whether the legally required signature verification procedure for mail-in ballots was followed in Maricopa County during the election. The question at hand was whether or not the protocol was adhered to.

Valenzuela was questioned by the attorney for Lake, Byran Blehm, regarding the locations of the November mail-in ballot verification and the presence of independent observers.

According to Valenzuela, the verification of mail-in ballots occurred at three different locations: the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center, or MCTEC, located in downtown Phoenix; the Maricopa County Recorder’s office, also located in Phoenix; and the Maricopa County Southeast Regional Center, located in Mesa.

Jacqueline Onigkeit, who worked as a ballot reviewer at MCTEC in November, testified before Valenzuela that she found it “odd” that she and her fellow reviewers were sent home at 7 p.m. while tallying of mail-in votes continued. During the month of November, Onigkeit was employed at MCTEC.

“Why did you think it was odd?” Lake attorney Kurt Olsen asked.

“Well, because we had observers that were constantly watching what we were doing [at the designated vote-counting area]. But there was, I’m assuming, no observers there [at the recorder’s office] who was watching what they were doing,” she replied.

Blehm asked Valenzuela, in view of the previous evidence, whether observers are permitted inside the office of the county recorder or at the Mesa location.

In response, Valenzuela stated that observers are permitted in “any general area,” but are not required to do so.

As a “certified election officer,” he and others like him are able to verify signatures in their offices even when there are no observers present.

In a subsequent question, Blehm inquired, “Can signature verification be done at a Maricopa County employee’s home?”

In response, Valenzuela stated, “We don’t have that currently in place,” but during the year 2020, while the pandemic was still active, the county let reviewers to work from home.

On Thursday, Blehm resumed this line of inquiry by asking Valenzuela, “Is it physically possible [now] for Maricopa County employees to log in and conduct signature verification from home?”

The director of elections provided a response, which stated, “An employee can log in and access their PC as if they were sitting in front of that PC remote, that are assigned those work stations,” despite the fact that the elections director indicated that this was not standard procedure.

According to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, approximately 80 percent of Arizona voters submit their ballots via mail.

Lake’s counsel, Kurt Olsen, has stated that his client believes the Maricopa County voter authentication procedure is inherently flawed.

Wednesday, he testified in court that a review of county data revealed that at least 334,000 mail-in ballots had not been verified. This number is substantially greater than the victory margin Hobbs attained with 17,000 ballots.

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