Secretary of state is on the ballot directly or indirectly—in eight cases where a newly elected governor will appoint someone to the job—in 35 states. So the fact that an election denier could end up taking office in 17 of them shows the Republican Party’s embrace of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and undermine democracy.
Republicans who have insisted that the 2020 election was decided by fraud, tried to overturn its results, or refused to say that it was legitimately decided, are nominated for secretary of state in these states:
- New Mexico
- South Dakota
In Wyoming, Trump-endorsed election denier Chuck Gray is the only candidate on the ballot, so he’s guaranteed a win. In Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont, on the other hand, these candidates have slim chances—but the fact that Republicans nominated them remains worth talking about.
But Arizona, Michigan, and Nevada are critical battleground states. If their top election administrators are ready to do whatever it takes to prevent Democrats from winning—or to prevent Democratic wins from being put into effect—that could tip a presidential election.
Additionally, in some states, the secretary of state is chosen by the governor or the legislature. Legislatures are more complicated, but we know that in these states, the Republican gubernatorial nominees are themselves election deniers who would be likely to appoint someone with the same views to be secretary of state:
- New York
Again, it’s unlikely that this will come to pass in New York. But in Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano is running in large part on Trump’s Big Lie, and he’s repeatedly made it clear that his choice for secretary of state would be with him on that. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has already appointed Cord Byrd as secretary of state, so we know that DeSantis’ choice for top elections administrator is someone who “has refused to say whether he believes the 2020 election results were legitimate, and he has amplified false rhetoric about widespread fraud.”
This week on The Downballot we check in on Pennsylvania, where Republican Doug Mastriano has called for “40 days of fasting and prayer” to save his ailing campaign for governor; dig into ad spending numbers that show Democrats airing far more spots because they aren’t relying on super PACs; circle back to the J.R. Majewski stolen valor scandal, which prompted the NRCC to cut him loose; and recap the dispiriting results of Italy’s general election, which saw the far-right win for the first time since Mussolini.
But even in states where Republicans haven’t nominated people who outright want to steal elections for members of their party, they’ve nominated people who want to make it harder to vote, especially if you’re a member of a group that tends to vote for Democrats. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, for instance, drew praise from Democrats for refusing Trump’s demand to “find 11,780 votes” to overturn his state’s 2020 election results. But he’s been a champion of Georgia’s restrictive new voting policies, including making it harder to vote early or by mail and prohibiting groups from giving water or food to voters waiting in Georgia’s notoriously long voting lines. Pretty much the best-case Republican these days is one who wants to keep Democrats from voting, but is reluctantly in favor of counting their votes once cast.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.