The star expert witness in Kari Lake’s imminent election challenge trial did work for the Arizona Senate’s debunked 2020 partisan election “audit” and was one of the speakers at the infamous Election Committee hearing that led to former Rep. Liz Harris being kicked out of the legislature.
After five months of dismissals and appeals in a case that has already reached the Arizona Supreme Court once, the failed Republican gubernatorial candidate’s election challenge will again go to trial in Maricopa County Superior Court on Wednesday.
At that trial, Lake will rely on the testimony of Erich Speckin, who describes himself as a forensic document analyst who has been examining documents and working on election cases for nearly 30 years, and who will testify about the county’s signature verification efforts, or alleged lack thereof. Speckin works at a private consulting firm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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Judge Peter Thompson, who presided over Lake’s initial trial in December, on Monday ordered a new trial on Lake’s ballot envelope signature verification claim that he originally dismissed. The Supreme Court in March remanded that claim back to Thompson, saying it had been incorrectly dismissed.
Thompson ruled on Monday that, in order to overturn the election results, Lake and her lawyers must prove that Maricopa County did not complete any kind of higher level signature verification for early ballot signatures flagged by lower level reviewers, and that the lack of verification led to Lake’s 17,000-vote defeat to Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs.
But Lake challenged the judge’s ruling in a filing early Tuesday, saying that Lake’s lawyers made the case that Maricopa County failed in its signature verification duties at all levels, and Thompson ruled Tuesday evening to allow Lake to argue the lower level signature verification claims. However, he specified that Lake would have to prove that the county didn’t conduct lower level signature verification at all, while some of the people on Lake’s own witness list participated in that lower level signature verification process.
The Lake trial will not be Speckin’s first look into election issues in Maricopa County.
Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan called Speckin in to review ballots from the 2020 election near the end of the Senate’s partisan election review, when only digital images of the ballots were accessible, but not the ballots themselves.
Speckin shared many theories about possible issues with those ballots during a Feb. 23 presentation before the Arizona legislature’s joint election committee. That was the same hearing during which Scottsdale insurance agent Jacqueline Breger falsely accused numerous local and state officials, including Gov. Katie Hobbs and members of the legislature, of involvement in a housing deed bribery scheme with a Mexican drug cartel. Harris invited both Speckin and Breger to present during the hearing and was later expelled from her seat in the House of Representatives for lying about her prior knowledge of Breger’s testimony and for “damaging the institutional integrity of the House.”
While Speckin said he found supposed evidence of 23,000 ballots cast in the 2020 Maricopa County election that may have been cast illegally, he admitted to the election committee that, since he never had access to the physical ballots, he could not determine for sure if the votes were illegal or not.
He said that Logan never explained to him why he was called in to help after the Cyber Ninjas no longer had access to the physical ballots.
Speckin also confirmed to the committee that no one from the state, including then-Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, contacted him about his report or offered to give him access to the ballots themselves.
In his report, Speckin claimed that the approximately 23,000 ballots came not from an original ballot PDF as they should, but from a copy of one that included consistently recurring defects.
Speckin also produced a report on election issues in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania last year that caused a stir on right-wing conspiracy theory blogs, according to the Daily Beast.
In his report, Speckin claimed that around 10,000 ballot images scanned by one of Allegheny County’s voting machines appeared blurry. The county explained that this was probably caused by a dirty scanner screen.
Other witnesses that Lake’s team plans to call during the three-day trial include Maricopa County Co-Election Directors Rey Valenzuela and Scott Jarrett, County Supervisor Bill Gates, Shelby Busch,of the conservative group We the People Az Alliance and three people who worked to verify ballot signatures for Maricopa County in the November 2022 election.
Lake and her legal team last week almost lost their chance to bring any expert witnesses to trial after her attorneys said they misunderstood directions from Thompson that information about expert witnesses needed to be turned in to the court by Thursday. Lake missed that deadline, and attorneys for the defendants said that therefore Lake’s team shouldn’t be allowed to bring expert witnesses, but Thompson, after showing obvious frustration at the misunderstanding, gave them until Friday evening to submit the information.
***UPDATE: This story has been updated with a Tuesday evening ruling from Judge Peter Thompson.
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