After failing to overturn the 2020 election results, several of the GOP’s chief purveyors of election fraud conspiracy theories have decided they want to be running the show in their states next time around, according to Politico. Effectively, if you can’t beat ’em, position yourself to cheat.
So a handful have launched campaigns to become their states’ top election officials:
- Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, who voted against certifying the 2020 Electoral College results and joined a lawsuit to overturn the results
- Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem, who has pushed the sham election audit in Arizona’s largest county, Maricopa
- Nevada’s Jim Marchant, who sued to overturn his 5-point congressional loss last year
- Michigan’s Kristina Karamo, who devoted herself to claiming election fraud in every pro-conspiracy outlet that would take her
All four are making bids to control elections in battleground states that will likely prove critical to determining which party controls Congress once the dust settles from the 2022 cycle. That prospect even has some Republican officials worried about how bad actors could undermine the integrity of state elections.
“Someone who is running for an election administration position, whose focus is not the rule of law but instead ‘the ends justifies the means,’ that’s very dangerous in a democracy,” Bill Gates, Republican vice chair of the Board of Supervisors in Maricopa County, Arizona, told Politico. “This is someone who is trying to tear at the foundations of democracy.”
In Georgia and Nevada, these conspiracy-minded Trumpers are running to replace Republicans who they believe betrayed Trump and his voters by adhering to their oaths of office. But in Arizona and Michigan, they are hoping to replace Democrats who ran their state’s elections.
But not all secretaries of state are created equal—they are either imbued with more or less power depending on the state.
Former Kentucky GOP secretary of state, Trey Grayson, framed the distinction this way, “There’s a symbolic risk, and then there’s … functional risk.”
In some ways, Grayson said the symbolic risk of a state official using their position to undermine public trust in an election could prove to be the greater risk given that many secretaries of state mainly perform ministerial duties. “Any secretary of state who is a chief elections official is going to have a megaphone and a media platform during the election,” Grayson said. “A lot of the power is the perception of power, or that megaphone.”
The scenario that is currently playing out in Arizona with the sham audit of Maricopa County offers a window into the havoc one maligned actor with a platform could wreak. While actual Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has been laboring to reassure and educate voters about 2020 election integrity, one of the candidates to replace her, Finchem, has been pushing conspiracy theories as the audit progresses.
On Twitch, where many alt-right, pro-conspiracy voices broadcast, Finchem railed against mainstream media for calling the baseless fraud claims “baseless.”
“I hate to break the news to you, but just in case you news people haven’t been paying attention, there’s a lot of evidence that’s already out there,” Finchem said. “We’ve got the proof, we’ve got the receipts.”
There’s still no proof. There’s still no receipts. All there is in Maricopa right now is the corruption of the process at the hands of people who have zero experience in administering elections. Despite having no proof of their claims, Finchem and others are both preying on and pumping the hopes of Trumpers who still haven’t accepted the simple fact that their guy lost. Nationwide, that’s roughly two-thirds of GOP voters based on repeated polling of the issue.