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The "fix" is in
This year, the midterm elections will not just determine who is in charge of state governments and Congress for the next few years. Democracy itself is also on the ballot.
There are hundreds of candidates running this fall that have bought into Trump's lie that he won the 2020 presidential election. If they are successful, many of these candidates will be in a position to help Trump — or another candidate making bogus voter fraud claims — in 2024 and beyond.
This is particularly true for candidates running for secretary of state, a powerful position that typically is in charge of administering elections. At least 10 Republican nominees for secretary of state are election deniers who reject or question Biden's victory in 2020. Several of these candidates are members of the "America First Secretary of State Coalition," The group claims that "digital voting machines" were introduced by the "globalist establishment" to "compromise and undermine our election process nationwide." Members of the coalition, chaired by Nevada's Republican nominee for secretary of state, Jim Marchant, have pledged to end early voting, end voting by mail, end electronic voting, and aggressively purge the voter rolls.
"I’ve been working since November 4, 2020, to expose what happened. And what I found out is horrifying. And when I’m secretary of state of Nevada, we’re going to fix it," Marchant said at a rally with Trump this month. "And when my coalition of secretary of state candidates around the country get elected, we’re going to fix the whole country and President Trump is going to be president again in 2024."
These are not idle threats. If Trump runs in 2024 and loses again, a sympathetic secretary of state could refuse to certify the election result, throwing the process into chaos.
The group dedicated to helping Republican candidates for secretary of state win is called the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). In response to Trump's false claims of voter fraud, the RSLC has publicly supported voter suppression efforts across the country. In 2020, the RSLC supported a proposal in Georgia that would “end no-excuse absentee voting in Georgia,” “ban drop boxes,” and make voter ID for absentee ballots mandatory.
In May 2021, Popular Information obtained a presentation from the RSLC’s “Election Integrity Committee,” which included proposals to suppress voting, including purging voter lists, imposing more stringent voter ID requirements, and targeting voting centers.
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R), who sits on the RSLC executive committee, claimed that "too many dead people" voted in Michigan, long after the claim was debunked by state officials.
The RSLC has sought to downplay its support of election deniers running for secretary of state. RSLC communications director Andrew Romeo said that the organization was focused on "protecting our incumbents." The group noted that its only independent expenditure was in support of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), who is not an election denier.
But the RSLC is supporting numerous candidates that deny or question the outcome of the 2020 election, including members of the America First Secretary of State Coalition. Meanwhile, many of the nation's most prominent corporations are making large donations to the RSLC.
This year, major corporate donors to the RSLC include Chevron ($452,500), Koch Industries ($275,000), Pfizer ($170,000), Comcast ($137,500), Charter Communications ($120,000), Intuit ($100,000), Walgreens ($65,000), Wells Fargo ($50,000), USAA ($50,000), Mastercard ($30,000), Amazon ($30,000), Anheuser-Busch ($30,000), Delta Air Lines ($25,000), and Publix ($25,000).
Morales calls the 2020 election a "scam"
In Indiana, Diego Morales (R), a former aide to Former Vice President Mike Pence (R) and a member of the American First Secretary of State Coalition, is running for Secretary of State. Morales “called the 2020 election a ‘scam’” and pointed to “unfounded claims Trump and his allies have made about other states.”
In June, Morales told the Courier & Press, “[t]here were a number of irregularities in [the 2020] election… Those kinds of actions are unacceptable. I am running for secretary of state to ensure that Hoosiers can trust their vote will be counted.”
On March 28, 2022, Morales tweeted, “[I]f we don’t protect our elections now, we won’t have a country left soon. That is why we must ensure election integrity at the ballot box.”
Morales’ “top priority” is “[s]ecuring our elections against fraud,” and has vowed to increase voting restrictions in Indiana if elected. His promises include reducing the number of early voting days prior to each election “from 28 days to 14,” “requiring new voters to prove their United States citizenship when registering,” and creating an “election task force” to investigate “shenanigans.” Morales has also pledged to “create a registration cross-checking system for voter verification.”
The RSLC donated $10,000 to Morales on October 14.
LaRose says "Trump is right" about voter fraud
Initially, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) expressed no skepticism about the integrity of the 2020 election. “I certainly have faith in Ohio’s elections, and I believe that other states … almost all, I think all the other states do it very well also,” LaRose said in November 2020. “If anybody believes that there’s something out there, they need to show evidence.”
Since then, however, LaRose has pivoted his messaging to appeal to Republican voters, and to Trump himself. “There are concerns that President Trump has raised that I think are valid,” LaRose said in September 2022 during an interview on The State of Ohio. In an interview with NPR in May, LaRose also said he “now feels like there were ‘shenanigans’ in other states in 2020.”
On February 3, 2022, LaRose tweeted that “[m]ainstream media [is] trying to minimize voter fraud to suit their narrative.” LaRose went on to say, “I’ll stop at nothing to expose any effort to cheat in Ohio… It’s an even bigger problem in other states where laws & leaders are weak. President Trump is right to say voter fraud is a serious problem.”
LaRose's embrace of Trump's false claims about election fraud secured Trump's endorsement. “Frank is dedicated to Secure Elections–the most important work he can do–with every legal vote counted, no ballot harvesting, and all votes counted on Election Day,” Trump said on April 23, 2022. “I won Ohio big, twice, and Frank is committed to ‘making it easy to vote and impossible to cheat.’”
On May 3, 2022, the RSLC congratulated LaRose on his primary victory, tweeting, “Under @FrankLaRose, it’s easier to vote and harder to cheat in Ohio.”
The RSLC donated $13,704.41 to LaRose on June 28.
The RSLC has also spent the weeks leading up to the election promoting LaRose on Twitter. On October 6, the RSLC retweeted a statement from LaRose saying, “Every vote has value, and when election fraud or suppression occurs it diminishes the value of that vote.” The RSLC also retweeted an ad posted by LaRose on October 7.
RSLC also supports election deniers running for state legislature
This corporate money has gone to support not only election deniers running for secretary of state but election deniers running for key state legislative positions. For example, the RSLC has run digital ads supporting "Wisconsin state Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu" who "has pushed election conspiracies on the campaign trail." The RSLC also has run ads supporting Pennsylvania Representative Lori Mizgorski, "one of the state GOP officials who called for an election audit," which included "inspecting voting machines supplied by Dominion Voting Systems — a common target for conspiracy theories about the election."