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The Guardian

Republicans who embraced Trump’s big lie are running to become election officials

National campaigns for secretaries of state highlight new Republican goal to take control of election administration Democrats: Texas vote bill marks ‘dark day for democracy’ Congressman Georgia Jody Hice runs to topple Brad Raffensperger, the Republican who refused to “ get ” votes for Donald Trump. Photograph: Rex / Shutterstock Republicans who have embraced baseless claims about the 2020 election theft are now running to become top election officials in several states, a move that could give them significant power over electoral processes. Sign up for the Guardian’s Fight to Vote newsletter The campaigns, first detailed by Politico last week, underscore a new goal to take control of the election administration. Secretaries of state, elected in long-neglected partisan contests, wield tremendous power over their state’s electoral rules, are responsible for overseeing election materials, and play a key role in certifying – formalizing – 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 out the candidates who win the most votes. “It’s an indication of wanting, fundamentally, to have a man on the inside who can undermine,” said Sylvia Albert, director of voting and elections at Common Cause, a government watchdog group. “It is clear that these are not people who believe in the rule of law. And the people who run our government must respect the rule of law. It is therefore worrying that they are running. In Arizona, State House Republican Mark Finchem is seeking the GOP nomination for Secretary of State, Arizona’s top election official. Finchem, who was on Capitol Hill on January 6, has repeatedly expressed support for the “Stop the Steal” movement, falsely claimed that the election was stolen from Donald Trump, and supported efforts to overturn the results of the United Nations. 2020 election. He is also a strong supporter of an ongoing Republican effort to examine 2.1 million ballots in Arizona’s largest county, an exercise experts say is designed to attempt to undermine the results elections. Jody Hice, a Republican congressman from Georgia who voted to try to block Electoral College certification, is also running as his state’s top election official and Trump has already endorsed him. He’s trying to topple Brad Raffensperger, an incumbent Republican, who angered Trump after refusing to “find” votes for him there. In Nevada, Jim Marchant, a former Republican congressional candidate who alleged fraud and tried to reverse his defeat last year, is running for secretary of state. Kristina Karamo, a Republican who has made unsubstantiated claims about fraud in Michigan, is also in the running to be the main elected official in that country. Finchem, Hice, Marchant and Karamo did not respond to interview requests. Jena Griswold, Colorado’s top election official and chair of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, was blunt in her assessment of the four candidates. She said it was concerning that many of them were showing up in swing states where there were attempts to overturn the 2020 election. “People who are spreading lies about our elections to try to help their own political parties are not fit to protect elections, ”she 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” that people who spread election lies would become the state’s top election officials. “We are now witnessing an escalation of tactics and a proliferation of tactics that we have experimented with over the past year to undermine democracy,” she said. “And they’ve now focused on who really has authority over our elections in 2022 and 2024. And use 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 in each state, but in many places they exercise enormous unilateral authority to create electoral rules and interpret electoral rules. That power manifested itself in 2020, when secretaries across the country made key decisions about accessing drop boxes and sending postal ballot requests, among other measures. After election day, Republican and Democratic secretaries of state in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Nevada opposed Trump’s efforts to overturn the results, both dispelling fraud charges and by refusing to stop the certification of elections. Benson, Michigan’s top election official, noted that secretaries of state were often one of the most trusted sources of information on electoral processes. In March, Benson’s office released a detailed report dispelling allegations of anomalies in County Antrim, which had become a major concern of those who believed the election was stolen. She also rebuffed allegations of wrongdoing in Detroit, where Trump used baseless fraud charges to try to stop the certification of the result, and issued a statement in March noting that more than 250 audits had confirmed the results. of the election. Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, investigated allegations of GOP fraud and said publicly in April that there was no evidence for the allegation – a move that earned her censorship of his own party. Raffensperger was one of the most prominent voices to challenge Trump last year and say there was no fraud in his state and defended manual audits and reporting that backed him up. “You have inherent the pulpit position of the bully to amplify the truth, or in the case of bad actors, maybe amplify the misinformation,” she said. “This is another pernicious aspect of individuals who would seek this position as the State Chief Electoral Officer who are not determined to tell the truth … rather they are determined to spread the big lie or whatever. misinformation that creates chaos. ”

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