Election deniers are winning political nominations across the country

Last month, Pennsylvania Republicans voted a staunch defender of former President Donald Trump and his electoral fraud as their gubernatorial nominee.

And in New Mexico this week, a GOP-led county commission refused to confirm the results of the county’s June 7 primary, citing concerns of voter fraud. The move led to legal action from Democrat Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who will face this fall a Republican rival who has labeled the 2020 election a “coup” and argued that vote counting machines were rigging election results.

As a House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol tries to uncover the untruths swirling around the last presidential election, a growing number of midterm results underscore the depth of distrust of the 2020 election among them has taken root Republican primary voters and some of the officials they have already installed in key positions.

“The threats to the integrity of the voting system are increasing week by week,” Richard Hasen, an electoral law expert at the University of California, Irvine Law School, told CNN on Wednesday.

“It wasn’t just the Marchant victory in the primary, and it’s not just a rogue precinct executive not doing his job to validate the election results. It’s also a party purge of those voices that have opposed Trump,” he said, citing the politicians who dropped out of their re-election bids, were stripped of their GOP leadership posts or lost their seats when the former president sought revenge. On Tuesday, for example, South Carolina GOP Rep. Tom Rice became the first of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach last year to lose a primary to a Trump-backed opponent.

It is by no means a matter of course that the doubters raised so far will prevail in the federal elections in the autumn. In New Mexico, for example, Oliver won her 2018 election by a landslide victory.

But the rise of these candidates in one state after another — coupled with the move by commissioners in one New Mexico county to decline to confirm the election results — sparked fresh alarms among voting rights experts this week.

“We’re in a really dangerous situation right now,” said David Becker, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, on Wednesday. “The tinder pieces will be placed right in front of our eyes.”

Those who refuse to vote are advancing

Marchant, who has led a coalition of 2022 candidates who insist the 2020 election was rigged, is the latest advocate of voter fraud claims to get closer to transforming the electoral system in a battleground state crucial to the next presidential election. (The Silver State, won by just over 2 percentage points in President Joe Biden’s most recent election, has seen many Democratic victories in recent years but remains increasingly competitive.)

Marchant, a former congressman, has placed electoral doubts at the heart of his campaign to become the state’s next election chief, saying on his website that his No. 1 priority would be to “overhaul Nevada’s fraudulent voting system.”

After losing a bid for the U.S. House of Representatives to Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford in 2020, Marchant filed a voter fraud lawsuit, but it was later dismissed. The candidate said he would not have certified Biden’s victory by more than 33,500 votes in Nevada if he had been secretary of state in 2020.
And more recently, Marchant has urged local governments to stop using machines to cast and count votes. He wants to return to hand counting of ballots – a move experts say will lead to errors, delays and chaos in future elections.

In the fall, he meets attorney Cisco Aguilar, who ran unopposed for the Democrats.

Marchant did not respond to interview requests on Wednesday.

He joins several other Republicans who have tried to cast doubt on the 2020 election and are now closer to overseeing elections in key states themselves.

In Pennsylvania, for example, Senator Doug Mastriano — who played a key role in efforts to overthrow Biden’s Keystone State victory — is the Republican nominee for governor. The governor of Pennsylvania appoints the Secretary of State, who is responsible for conducting the state’s elections.

And in Michigan, delegates to the state GOP convention supported the nomination of Kristina Karamo for secretary of state — a political newcomer who drew attention after the 2020 election when she claimed to have witnessed mail-in ballot count fraud as a challenger for elections.

She also signed an unsuccessful US Supreme Court challenge to Biden’s victory.

In states with upcoming primary elections, including Arizona, more candidates who agree with Trump’s electoral views are on the ballot. The state is becoming a breeding ground for electoral conspiracy theories, as exemplified by the widely maligned 2021 review of the 2.1 million ballots cast in its largest district, which ended up confirming Biden’s narrow win in Arizona.

New Mexico drama

In New Mexico, Oliver petitioned the state Supreme Court and won an emergency measure to force the Republican-led commission in Otero County to vote the primary on April 7th.

The commissioners voted 3-0 Monday not to confirm the results, citing their distrust of Dominion voting machines. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court sided with Oliver, ordering the commission to act by Friday, the deadline for counties to sign off on the results of the primary.

(In a statement Wednesday, a Dominion spokesman called the county’s action “another example of how lying about Dominion has damaged our company and reduced public confidence in elections.” The company has filed several lawsuits for defamation against individuals , who have spread untruths about their machines.)

Overall, more than 7,300 voters in Otero County cast ballots in last week’s primary, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Among the Otero officials who voted against certification this week: Commissioner Couy Griffin, one of the founders of Cowboys for Trump. He was found guilty in March during a trial of trespassing on the US Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, 2021 while then-Vice President Mike Pence was there.

Griffin is due to be sentenced later this week. He did not respond to an interview request.

In court filings, Oliver said other New Mexico counties may object to confirming their findings in the coming days, citing a “statewide attempt to influence other county advertising agencies.”

Alex Curtas, the chief spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, said Oliver acted quickly to avert a potential wider rebellion.

“One of the biggest concerns is that this will spread to different counties and different states and become part of the national trend that we’ve been seeing since 2020 of denying the election without evidence,” Curtas told CNN on Wednesday.

“This has implications for people’s security, the potential disenfranchisement of voters, and an overall deterioration in trust in our system of government and our elections.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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