In the aftermath of the 2020 Presidential election and President Trump’s attempt to subvert its results, there has been an increased focus on the oft overlooked statewide position of secretary of state. During his attempts to subvert the results of the election, President Trump put pressure on secretaries of state across the country to undermine the results in their respective states. As the midterm elections draw near, and with many Secretary of State positions on the ballot, the former President is endorsing candidates in key battleground states who agree with his claims of fraud in the 2020 Presidential election. If they are appointed to office, these candidates could undermine the nation’s free and fair elections in 2024.
The secretary of state responsibilities include the management and oversight over elections within their respective state. While they run with the affiliation of a political party, the office tends to act in a bureaucratic sense and does not get involved with partisan conflicts.
The position had very little spotlight until the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election when former President Trump attempted to overturn the results of the election. This is most evidently seen in his call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, to “find” about 11,000 ballots needed to flip the results in the state from a Trump loss to a win. Raffensberger refused President Trump’s demand, and the election in Georgia was certified as a Biden victory, supported by several recounts that reinforced the same result.
With current officials across both parties refusing to help President Trump overturn the election, he has begun to endorse candidates for Secretary of State who support his claim of fraud. With the 2022 midterm elections approaching, 27 secretary of state seats are up for election across the nation. Within these races there are 21 candidates in 18 states who deny the validity of the last Presidential election’s results. Of these, Trump has endorsed three candidates for the position in Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan: three competitive states from the last election cycle. One such example is Arizona state Representative Mark Fincher, who attended the January 6 riot and has introduced a bill to decertify Arizona’s 2020 election. Even in Georgia, Raffensperger faces a primary challenge from U.S Rep Jody Hice, who is seeking the position to “aggressively pursue voter fraud.” While these candidates actively sow doubt about the previous election, they are attempting to be elected to control the next ones. If elected, they can use their office to skew and manipulate election results in Trump’s favor if he runs again in 2024.
If elected, Secretaries of State who support baseless claims of election fraud will weaken U.S democracy by undermining the country’s free and fair elections. President Trump’s current attempt to put supporters of his claims of fraud into secretary of state offices across the country would enable him to politicize election institutions, decrease faith in the stability of elections, and potentially overturn unfavorable results. If these hyper-partisan candidates are elected, it would mark a stark change in the office of secretary of state, making it a much more political body. Instead of acting in a nonpartisan manner, these new secretaries would be able to use the powers of their office for the benefit of Trump’s election attempts. While there are concerns that these candidates could take action against election results, they would also diminish faith in America’s democracy and electoral system. A January 2022 poll from Quinnipiac found that 58 percent of Americans believe that the country’s democracy is under the threat of collapse. Since the Secretary of State leads elections in each state, if there is not faith in them to properly fulfill their duties, there is little chance that the public would believe that elections are free and fair. With a majority of Americans believing that democracy is under threat, it is important that the people in charge of elections are able to instill the public’s trust in the electoral system’s ability to uphold democracy. It would be a hard task to strengthen democracy while those in charge of elections are actively supporting notions of fraud. Furthermore, if Trump runs once again in 2024, supporting Secretaries of State in key states could potentially help undermine election results, in the guise of security, in their states to reverse results in favor of Trump. Altogether, these factors demonstrate the threat that these candidates can potentially have to U.S democracy.
As the midterm elections draw near, it is important that Americans across the country pay attention to their secretary of state races, and choose wisely. It is important to American democracy that each states’ electorate rejects candidates who insist that the last election was fraudulent. As there is less and less trust in the future of American democracy, voters must elect candidates that will uphold the free and fair elections in 2024 and beyond.