Republicans who have embraced unsubstantiated claims about the theft of the 2020 election are now running to serve as the top election officials in multiple states, a move that could give them significant power over electoral processes.
The campaigns, first detailed by Politician last week, underscore a new approach to taking control of the electoral administration. Secretaries of State, who are elected to positions in partisan contests They have long been overlooked, wield enormous power over electoral rules in their state, are responsible for overseeing the electoral team, and are a key player in certifying (making official) election results.
Winning secretary-of-state positions across the country would give conspiracy theorists enormous power to wreak havoc in the 2024 presidential election, including potentially blocking the candidates who get the most votes from taking office.
“This is an indication of basically wanting to have a man inside that can undermine,” said Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections for Common Cause, a government watchdog group. “Clearly, these are not people who believe in the rule of law. And the people who run our government must respect the rule of law. That is why it is worrying that they are running. “
In Arizona, Mark Finchem, a Republican in the state chamber, is seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for secretary of state, Arizona’s top election official. Finchem, who was at the United States Capitol on January 6, has repeatedly voiced his support for the “Stop the Steal” movement, has falsely claimed that the elections were stolen from Donald Trump, and has endorsed efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 elections. He is also a staunch supporter From an ongoing Republican effort to review 2.1 million votes cast in Arizona’s largest county, an exercise experts say is designed to try to undermine election results.
Jody Hice, a Republican congressman from Georgia who voted to try to block electoral college certification, is also running to serve as the top elections official in his state and has already been endorsed by Trump. He’s trying to overthrow Brad Raffensperger, a sitting Republican, who drew the ire of Trump after refusing to “find” vote for him there.
In Nevada, Jim Marchant, a former Republican Congressional candidate who alleged fraud and tried to reverse his loss last year he ran to serve as secretary of state there. Kristina Karamo, a Republican who made unsubstantiated claims about fraud in Michigan, is also running to be the top elected official there.
Finchem, Hice, Marchant and Karamo did not respond to interview requests.
Jena Griswold, Colorado’s top election official and president of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, was forceful in her assessment of the four candidates. He said it was concerning that many of them were running in undecided states where there were attempts to overturn the 2020 elections.
“The people who spread lies about our elections to try to help their own political parties are not in a position to protect the elections,” he said in an interview. “They should not be elected to these positions.”
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said she was “deeply concerned” by the possibility that people who spread lies about the elections would become top state election officials.
“We are now seeing an escalation of tactics and a proliferation of tactics that we have experienced over the past year to undermine democracy,” he said. “And now they’ve focused on who really has authority over our elections in 2022 and 2024. And using the time now to change the rules of the game and the people who oversee it.”
The role of a secretary of state may vary from state to state, but in many places they exercise enormous unilateral authority to create electoral regulations and interpret electoral rules. That power was on display in 2020, when secretaries across the country made key decisions about mailbox access and mail-in ballot requests, among other measures. After Election Day, Republican and Democratic secretaries of state in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Nevada stood as bulwarks against Trump’s efforts to overturn the results, both by dispelling allegations of fraud and by refusing to stop certification. of the elections.
Benson, Michigan’s top election official, noted that secretaries of state used to be one of the most trusted sources of information about election processes.
In March, Benson’s office published a detailed report dissipating claims of anomalies in County Antrim, which had become a major focus of those who believed the elections had been stolen. It also rejected claims that there were wrongdoings in Detroit, where Trump used unsubstantiated allegations of fraud to try to stop the certification of the result, and issued a statement in March in which he noted more than 250 audits he had confirmed the election results.
Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, Republican, investigated the Republican allegations of fraud and said publicly in April There was no evidence for the claim, a move that earned him a censure. of his own party. Raffensperger was one of the most prominent voices to challenge Trump last year and said there was no fraud in his state and defended audits and manual accounts that backed it up.
“It is inherent in the bully’s pulpit position to amplify the truth, or in the cases of bad actors, perhaps to amplify the misinformation,” he said. “That is another pernicious aspect of the people who would seek to fill this position as the director of state elections who are not committed to telling the truth … but are committed to spreading the big lie or other misinformation that creates chaos.” .
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism