What Happens If Election Chiefs Don’t Trust Elections?

Mark Finchem, Republican nominee for Arizona secretary of state, speaks at a campaign rally. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In ordinary times, secretary of state tends to be a low-profile role at the state level. But a bevy of candidates loud and proud in their denials of the 2020 election results are running for the position in several states next month pledging to overhaul their state’s election systems.

Though the power of the position varies by state, the secretary of state doesn’t have absolute authority over elections. “It’s not as if this is an all-powerful person with no other actors, no other restraints and obstacles,” said John Fortier, a senior fellow on election administration at American Enterprise Institute. “They’re going to take the oath of office, they’re going to have to follow the law. They’re going to have to interact with both the executive branch, legislative, and local officials.”

But that hasn’t stopped some from campaigning on wholesale changes.

Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem, the GOP nominee for secretary of state, told supporters in May that if he had been in office in 2020, “we would have won. Plain and simple.”

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