MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Wisconsin’s secretary of state has no role in the election, but that could change if Republicans are able to reverse the seat this year and pass legislation that would give the office significantly more power. responsibilities.
All three GOP candidates vying for the nomination in Tuesday’s primary support change and echo former President Donald Trump’s false claims that fraud cost him the 2020 election.
If successful, the move would be a bold attempt to transfer power to an office Republicans hope to control before the 2024 presidential election and would represent a reversal from just six years ago when Republicans created the Wisconsin Election Commission with bipartisan support. In 2020, Democrat Joe Biden won Wisconsin by approximately 21,000 votes in the presidential race.
“It’s not about politics,” said David Becker, a former attorney for the US Department of Justice who directs the nonpartisan Center for Election Research and Innovation. “It’s about election results and only election results.”
Once an under-the-radar contest overshadowed by campaigns for governor and state attorney general, the races for secretary of state are attracting huge interest and money this year, largely due to the 2020 election. when voting systems and processes were attacked by Trump and his supporters. There is no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of voting systems in the 2020 election.
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There are also primaries on Tuesday in the Secretary of State races in Minnesota, Connecticut and Vermont. In Minnesota, the leading Republican candidate called the 2020 election “rigged” and came under fire for a video attacking three prominent Jewish Democrats, including current Secretary of State Democrat Steve Simon, who is seeking re-election .
Although the stakes are high, Wisconsin’s primary for secretary of state was fairly quiet. The incumbent, Democrat Doug La Follette, barely campaigned. In June, the 81-year-old, who was first elected to the post in 1974, chose to take a two-week trip to Africa.
La Follette raised about $21,000, according to the latest campaign finance reports. This is not unusual as the only functions of the office are to sit on a state timber board and verify certain travel documents.
La Follette said he decided to run again to prevent Republicans from meddling in the election, citing Trump’s call to Georgian Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after the 2020 election asking him to ” find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in the state. La Follette’s main opponent, Dane County Democratic Party Executive Council Chairwoman Alexia Sabor, raised about $24,000.
Republican candidates argue that dismantling the Elections Commission and empowering the Secretary of State to oversee elections would allow voters to hold someone accountable for important election-related decisions. They all strongly criticized the decisions taken by the commission in the run-up to the 2020 elections, when the COVID-19 pandemic posed major challenges to the holding of the elections.
To achieve their goal, Republicans would also need to defeat Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who would block such a move, in November.
The top fundraiser among GOP candidates for secretary of state is State Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, who brought in about $94,000 in contributions. The other two Republicans are businessman Jay Schroeder and Justin Schmidtka, who hosts a political podcast. Libertarian candidate Neil Harmon is also on the ballot.
In Minnesota, the leading Republican candidate for secretary of state, Kim Crockett, called the 2020 election a “train wreck” and accused state election officials of using the pandemic as a “cover for change the way we vote, but also the way the vote is counted. .”
Although Crockett doesn’t usually claim in public that the election was stolen from Trump, she has partnered with those who do and campaigned at events with them.
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At the state party convention in May, where Crockett was endorsed by convention delegates, she showed a video showing billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros as a puppeteer, pulling the strings of Simon, the current Secretary of State and prominent election lawyer Marc Elias, with a caption that read, “Let’s destroy the election forever and ever.”
All three men are Jewish. The state GOP chairman quickly apologized, saying Crockett did not intend him to be anti-Semitic. Crockett did not apologize and, a day after the president’s apology, sent a fundraising letter titled “Media Health and Communist Tears” and claiming that she had been the victim of “artificial and fabricated political attacks “.
In their respective primaries, Crockett and Simon face lesser-known opponents – Republican Erik van Mechelen and Democrat Steve Carlson.
The races in Connecticut and Vermont have drawn a lot of interest after two longtime Democratic secretaries of state said they would not seek re-election.
Much of the debate during the Democratic and Republican primaries in Connecticut has focused on voter ID requirements. A Connecticut voter can sign an affidavit instead of showing ID, and multiple forms of ID are accepted, including a current bank statement or utility bill.
Republican candidate Dominic Rapini, former chairman of the board of a group called Fight Voter Fraud Inc., called for tougher ID requirements and a cleanup of state voter rolls. While Rapini says he is wary of voter fraud in Connecticut and thinks reforms are needed, he did not echo Trump’s assertion that the 2020 election was stolen.
Rapini faces state Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien, who also called for tougher voter ID rules and a cleanup of voter rolls.
On the Democratic side, both candidates oppose GOP proposals on voter ID. State Rep. Stephanie Thomas of Norwalk, who won the party’s endorsement at the state convention this spring, faces New Haven City Health Director Maritza Bond.
In Vermont, the Democratic primary drew the most attention. For the first time since 2010, Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat, will not be on the ballot after announcing his intention to retire.
The three Democratic candidates in Tuesday’s primary promise to continue their efforts to make elections in the state as accessible and safe as possible. Last year, the Legislative Assembly passed a law that requires ballots for general elections to be mailed to all registered voters, although people can still choose to vote in person on Election Day. .
The candidates are Under Secretary of State Chris Winters, who has served in the office for 25 years; State Representative Sarah Copeland Hanzas, who co-sponsored last year’s Voting Act; and Montpelier City Clerk John Odum, who has overseen elections in Vermont’s capital for the past decade.
A perennial candidate for office, H. Brooke Paige, is the only person running in the GOP primary. He also appears on the ballot for three other statewide offices.
Cassidy reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis, Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut, and Wilson Ring in Montpelier, Vermont contributed to this report.