Adrian Fontes asks attorney general to investigate Kari Lake for posting voter signatures online

Democratic Secretary of State Adrian Fontes has called for an investigation of former Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake after she posted online what appear to be signatures of more than a dozen Arizona voters.

Fontes on Monday asked Attorney General Kris Mayes, also a Democrat, to "investigate and take appropriate enforcement action" against Lake for her Jan. 23 Twitter post that included a graphic with 16 signatures from voters, most of which are dated in 2020.

Richie Taylor, a spokesperson for Mayes, confirmed the letter was received but declined further comment.

The image in Lake's post places many of the signatures side by side, suggesting that because they do not match, they were evidence of ballots that were illegally counted. Fontes says the use of those signatures may violate state law.

The letter cites Arizona law that details in what circumstances voter information can be released. It says "nothing in this section shall preclude public inspection of voter registration records at the office of the county recorder for the purposes prescribed by this section, except that ... records containing a voter's signature and a voter's e-mail address shall not be accessible or reproduced by any person other than the voter."

For subscribers:How many Republican voters in Maricopa County chose Katie Hobbs over Kari Lake?

Other types of records the law bars disclosure of include birth dates and social security numbers. Releasing that information is a Class 6 felony, the lowest-level felony in Arizona but punishable by prison time.

Lake's campaign spokespeople did not respond to questions about the Twitter post or a request for comment. Lake, a former television news anchor, regularly attacks the news media and does not respond to questions from The Arizona Republic.

But since her razor-thin loss to Democrat Katie Hobbs in November by about 17,000 votes, Lake has continued talking to those who believe her falsehoods about elections. Her continued insistence that the 2020 presidential election was rigged helped catapult her from television news anchor and first-time candidate to a star in Donald Trump's orbit.

Lake has furthered lies that Trump won in 2020, and as recently as Sunday she made claims she is the rightful governor of Arizona. Her lawsuit challenging the election result is before the state's appeals court, but a Maricopa County judge in December heard evidence and ruled there was no basis to overturn the result.

Fontes suggests 'possible prosecution' of Lake

Secretary of State Adrian Fontes during his ceremonial inauguration at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.

Arizona has remained a hotbed of false claims about election outcomes that simmered previously but took root in 2020, when Trump's unprecedented efforts to remain in power included a pressure campaign on Grand Canyon State leaders to follow suit. A review of ballots cast in the 2020 presidential election showed Democrat Joe Biden won in Maricopa County, but also cast doubt on election procedures, including via claims about signature verification that were debunked by county election officials.

The Monday letter could reflect a significant shift in approach from Arizona's top statewide officers.

For subscribers:What to watch at the Arizona Governor's Office as Katie Hobbs' administration takes power

Fontes, the Democrat who was elected in November, wrote that he was sending the information to the attorney general for "further investigation and possible prosecution." The state's prior attorney general, Republican Mark Brnovich, was often criticized for not crossing the faction of his party that believes Trump won in 2020.

Lake shared the signatures in her Twitter post on Jan. 23, claiming a Senate meeting earlier that day confirmed nearly 40,000 ballots were illegally counted. Lake proclaimed it a "bombshell discovery," though no judge — in a half dozen lawsuits in Arizona after 2020 or Lake's own election challenge this year — has confirmed such a number of ballots were illegally counted.

Where the voter signatures came from

The signature images came from a presentation before the Senate's Elections Committee from Shelby Busch of the We The People Alliance. Busch has also posted the slide presentation she gave on the group’s website, also including some signature images.

Busch, in a brief interview with The Republic following her presentation, said that her volunteer group continued to investigate the 2020 election after the original ballot review concluded in September 2021.

“We just continued researching,” she said.

Busch said that in June she approached former Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, with a hypothesis about irregularities in the election, and Fann gave Busch’s group access to the images of signatures on 1.9 million ballot envelopes the Senate received under subpoena from Maricopa County. Busch said she also received the signatures on file in registration records.

“(Fann) was cautious and careful of how she did that,” Busch said.

The Senate did not have on file any agreement or contract with the We The People Alliance dictating how it would use the records, according to an associate attorney for the Senate who conducted a records search at the request of The Republic. But such provisions were included in the contract the Arizona Senate agreed to with Cyber Ninjas, the firm hired to do the original ballot review.

Reach reporter Stacey Barchenger at or 480-416-5669. Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger. Reach reporter Richard Ruelas at or at @ruelaswritings on Twitter.