By Tim Reid
(Reuters) – Republicans who back former President Donald Trump’s false claim the 2020 election was stolen have become their party’s nominees for secretary of state in battleground states where they can play a decisive role in choosing a U.S. president.
Should they defeat their Democratic opponents in a Nov. 8 vote, these election deniers will be in charge of elections and vote counts in the swing states of Arizona, Michigan and Nevada during the 2024 White House contest.
Democratic President Joe Biden narrowly won all three states in 2020.
Voting rights groups say the election of any of these Republican candidates threatens both the integrity of the next presidential election and U.S. democracy itself. The fear is they could help Trump, if he decides to run again, or another like-minded Republican, overturn election results in 2024.
Here are the Republican secretary of state candidates in the three states.
MARK FINCHEM, ARIZONA
Finchem is a state legislator, has claimed membership of the far-right militia group the Oath Keepers, and has parroted false conspiracy theories propagated by the QAnon movement, including that leading politicians are part of a pedophile ring.
Finchem supported the “Stop the Steal” movement that falsely claimed the 2020 election was fraudulent and attended Trump’s rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, that preceded the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Finchem says he did not travel from Trump’s rally to the Capitol that day.
Finchem has said he would not have certified Biden’s 2020 victory in Arizona. He supported an audit of Arizona’s election results and co-sponsored a bill that would give the state’s Republican-controlled legislature the power to overturn election results. After the 2020 election he also called for the arrest of the state’s Democratic secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, who is running for governor this November.
KRISTINA KARAMO, MICHIGAN
Karamo was a little-known political figure in Michigan but soared to prominence – and onto Trump’s radar – when she claimed in 2020 that she had witnessed fraud at Detroit’s absentee counting board as a poll observer.
A community college professor who opposes the teaching of evolution in schools, Karamo testified before the state legislature that she had seen sacks of votes being mysteriously dropped off in the middle of the night, and that voting machines flipped votes to Biden. No evidence has ever emerged supporting those claims.
JIM MARCHANT, NEVADA
A former state assemblyman, Marchant opposed certification of Biden’s win in Nevada. He was a member of Nevada’s bogus alternative slate of presidential electors that sought to overturn Biden’s victory in the state.
Marchant ran for the U.S. Congress in 2020 but lost. He unsuccessfully sued to have that result overturned, basing his case on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.
Marchant is a member of the America First Secretary of State Coalition, a group supporting a slate of candidates supporting Trump’s baseless claims about the 2020 election.
In Nevada, the secretary of state does not have the power to certify results but can set and enforce election rules.
(Reporting by Tim Reid, editing by Ross Colvin and Howard Goller)