Arizona's Mark Finchem is the latest in a wave of election deniers moving toward controlling elections
Mark Finchem on Aug. 2, 2022, at an election night party for Kari Lake. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror
Mark Finchem, an Arizona state representative who has said he would not have certified the 2020 election, has won the Republican primary for secretary of state, making him the latest election denier to move closer to controlling his state’s election system.

Venture capitalist Blake Masters, who has questioned whether the upcoming November midterm election will be legitimate and has embraced the Big Lie about the 2020 election, was leading the GOP primary for U.S. Senate by nearly five percentage points. While former television journalist Kari Lake was trailing Karrin Taylor Robson by less than eight percentage points, she insisted that her strong performance among voters who showed up at the polls on Tuesday instead of voting by mail would result in her eventual victory.

Both earned endorsements from former president Donald Trump by supporting his Big Lie, and Lake has claimed without evidence that her election was rigged against her.

While wins by Lake and Masters would pose a danger to democracy, even more concerning is election deniers like Finchem taking control of positions in which they’ll be able to control their state’s election systems.

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Across the country, Republicans who say the 2020 election was rigged are vying in more than a dozen states to be elected secretary of state, a position that would grant them immense control over their states’ election systems.

As of July 28, at least 20 election deniers are running for secretary of state in 16 states, according to States United Action, an organization that tracks these races.

Since the 2020 election, races for secretary of state have gone from low-profile contests to ones in which massive amounts of money have been spent on candidates who have a higher profile than ever before.

As November approaches, candidates in Arizona and three other critical states — Michigan, Minnesota, and Nevada — continue to claim that Donald Trump won the 2020 election and have vowed to erect barriers to voting. All the candidates have raised enough money to be competitive in their races.

They’ve all won the Republican nomination and will appear on the ballot in November. They all have close ties to Trump allies and many of them have been endorsed by Trump.

Here’s how four candidates are campaigning and what they say about the future of elections in their states:

Arizona

Finchem has ties to QAnon, is supported by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, and has been endorsed by Trump.

He’s also a staunch believer in the Big Lie and was at the U.S. Capitol for the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection. He’s one of Arizona’s most vocal Republicans claiming the 2020 election was stolen and that the results should have been decertified in Arizona.

Since announcing his candidacy to run Arizona’s elections, he’s repeated those claims on the campaign trail. He’s told voters not to put mail mallets in “Zuckerboxes,” (a reference to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s grants to local and state election departments) claiming they are part of the “Democrat fraud machine.”

He’s also called for the arrest of Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is running for governor, and former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, who is running for secretary of state as a Democrat. Finchem may face Fontes in November; he leads state Rep. Reginald Bolding in the contest for the Democratic secretary of state nomination.

In an interview with right-wing media outlet Real America’s Voice, Finchem reiterated his claims about voter fraud.

“For those media outlets that claim there’s no fraud, you’re willfully ignoring the evidence,” Finchem said, looking directly into the camera. He called Nov. 3, 2020, a “gaping wound in the American psyche.”

Michigan

In Michigan, Kristina Karamo, a community college professor who worked the polls in 2020 and claimed the election was fraudulent, is challenging Democrat Jocelyn Benson, the current office holder, for secretary of state. Karamo won the Michigan Republican Party’s nomination in April.

After the 2020 election, Karamo served as a poll challenger at the TCF Center in Detroit and went on Fox News as a “whistleblower” to falsely claim that she witnessed fraud on Election Day. She alleged without evidence that votes were incorrectly counted for Joe Biden and that “thousands” of ballots were dropped off in the middle of the night. A month after the election, she testified before a state Senate committee about the fraud she said she witnessed.

Karamo hosts a podcast where she claims that left-wing anarchists organized the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to CNN.

“I believe this is completely Antifa posing as Trump supporters,” Karamo said on an episode the day after the insurrection, according to CNN’s analysis. “I mean, anybody can buy a MAGA hat and put on t-shirt and buy a Trump flag.”

In recent months, she has campaigned against Benson, who she calls an “authoritarian leftist” and who she says isn’t protecting the integrity of Michigan’s elections.

She often shares an unverified video that she purports to show mail ballot fraud.

She’s also alleged that Benson is lying about threats to her life. A month after the election, Benson said that armed protesters showed up outside her home to shout obscenities and make ambiguous demands, but Karamo claims without evidence that these allegations are false.

In recent interviews, Karamo has said that “cleaning up the corruption in our election system is a matter of national survival.” She also claims without evidence that corruption in the voter registration database means that thousands of illegal ballots are being produced.

Minnesota

Kim Crockett, a lawyer with a history of incendiary remarks, won the Minnesota Republican Party’s endorsement in April to be their candidate for secretary of state. She has called the election rigged and believes Trump won the election in Minnesota and nationally.

If elected the chief of Minnesota’s elections, she has said she would push for more restrictions on voting by mail. She also wants to shorten the early voting period and supports voter ID requirements. According to the Minnesota Reformer, a sister publication of the Arizona Mirror, her campaign sent an email saying Republicans need to overcome a “margin of fraud” in the upcoming election.

Though she speaks out about her views on the 2020 election being rigged more infrequently and uses less inflammatory language than other high-profile secretary of state candidates, Crockett still interjects her beliefs into her public appearances, statements, and interviews.

On Twitter, Crockett has said that the terms “election deniers” and “election conspiracy theorists” are labels used “to shut up those advocating policies making it harder to cheat.”

She’s also tweeted about making sure what happened in 2020 never happens again and “ensuring ineligible ballots and illegal election procedures do not disenfranchise legitimate voters.”

She has said in a radio interview that six weeks of early voting is “ridiculous” because voters should be listening to candidates and their minds could change before Election Day.

And she has used an antisemetic trope to tie the election system to Democratic mega donor George Soros and is part of a right-wing network, led by Republican lawyer Cleta Mitchell, to recruit an army of activists to become poll workers. As she campaigns across the state, she’s been pushing the recruitment of conservative election judges and ballot board members.

Nevada

Jim Marchant, a former state assemblyman who is linked to QAnon and has also spouted false claims about the 2020 election, won the GOP primary in June and is the party’s nominee for secretary of state. Marchant continues to claim that Biden did not legitimately win the election.

“It’s almost statistically impossible that Joe Biden won,” he said in an interview with NBC News earlier this year. He also said he would not have certified the election had he been secretary of state at the time.

If he wins in November, Marchant has said he would get rid of electronic voting machines, vote by mail, and early voting. He has also called for the hand counting of paper ballots.

In an interview with the Washington Post in February, Marchant claimed that Nevada voters “haven’t elec­ted anybody here since 2006. They have been installed and selec­ted by the cabal.”

In frequent interviews with Steve Bannon’s “War Room” TV program, Marchant repeatedly claims that establishment Republicans and Democrats don’t want to protect elections.

In one recent interview, Marchant said that Trump allies convinced him to run for secretary of state instead of for Congress this year. Marchant previously ran for Congress in 2020, and he was the victim of fraud in that race.

“I contend that the secretary of state races around the country right now are the most important races in the country and the reason is that we control the election system,” he said.

***UPDATED: This story has been updated to reflect the Associated Press calling the race for Finchem.

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Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.