Explainer: What US 2024 election deniers might do if they win this November

Republican nominee for Arizona governor Kari Lake, who is running in the 2022 U.S. midterm election, looks on during an interview at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Texas, August 5, 2022. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

NOVEMBER 4 (Reuters) – Several Republican candidates for governor and secretary of state in next week’s congressional election are standoffs in battleground states that will play a crucial role in the US presidential election.

All support former President Donald Trump‘s false claims that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election, which was won by Democrat Joe Biden.

Voting rights groups and many Democrats fear that if candidates win their races in these midterm elections, they will be in key positions to influence the outcome of the 2024 presidential election.

THE BIG THREE: ARIZONA, MICHIGAN AND PENNSYLVANIA

In most states, the secretary of state oversees the election and certifies the result of the presidential election, while the governor certifies the winning candidate’s list of presidential elections, which in the American electoral system is the mechanism for determining the candidate who won a state.

Individual states send these electoral votes, which represent the popular vote, to the US Congress for certification, an important step before a president can be sworn in. It was this certification ceremony that disrupted Trump supporters during the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

This November, Trump-backed Kari Lake and Mark Finchem are running for governor and secretary of state in Arizona; Michigan features the duo of Tudor Dixon and Kristina Karamo; and in Pennsylvania, Republican gubernatorial candidate and draft evader Doug Mastriano is allowed to nominate secretary of state if he wins the governor’s mansion.

Biden narrowly won these three battlegrounds in 2020.

What worries constituencies and constitutional scholars most is the possibility of a governor and secretary of state working together, disputing or ignoring total vote counts, refusing to confirm a presidential election result, or even actually claiming the losing candidate in their state won.

In a May email to supporters, Finchem said that if he had been Secretary of State for Arizona in 2020, “we would have won. Plain and simple.”

Lake called for the incarceration of officials responsible for the 2020 election and said she would never have confirmed Biden’s victory had she been governor.

Mastriano, a state senator, introduced a failed resolution after Trump lost Pennsylvania in 2020, falsely claiming that it is the Republican-controlled Legislature that has the power to determine which candidate gets the presidential electoral votes of the state receives. He was present at the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

In Michigan, Republican Secretary of State Karamo has claimed that Biden is an illegitimate president and that she did not confirm his 2020 victory in her state.

Michigan’s gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon is also an election denier, though she balked at saying she blocked Biden’s win.

A refusal to certify the election results would be immediately met with lawsuits and lawsuits in state courts to reverse such unprecedented actions, and there is no guarantee these Republican officials would ultimately succeed in reversing the results if they did would decide to do so.

At the very least, such a radical move would delay election results, likely throwing the country into chaos, undermining confidence in the electoral system and possibly leading to civil unrest.

CREATE MACHINES, END MAIL VOTING, LIMIT VOTING

Lake and Finchem in Arizona, Karamo in Michigan and Mastriano in Pennsylvania are all part of a group formed in 2021 called the America First Secretary of State Coalition.

With sweeping powers to potentially rewrite electoral rules, particularly with the support of their Republican-controlled state legislatures, all four have aligned themselves with the stated goals of the Secretary of State’s coalition, including: eliminating mail voting, using paper ballots exclusively, and voting exclusively be limited to election day and thus put an end to early voting.

Democrats accuse Republicans of creating restrictions that reduce the influence of blacks and other minorities, who tend to vote for Democrats. Republicans say they want to root out fraud, despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud in US elections.

Lake, Finchem, Karamo and Mastriano also support ending the use of vote counting machines and replacing them with hand counts.

“I could decertify any machine in the state with the stroke of a pen through the Secretary of State,” Mastriano said during a radio interview in March.

In Arizona, Lake has appeared at events with a sledgehammer that she says should be used in fraudulent counting machines that gave Biden votes in 2020.

In Nevada, another swing state narrowly won by Biden, Republican nominee for secretary of state Jim Marchant and Mastriano in Pennsylvania have proposed wiping voter rolls clean and getting residents to re-register. They cite the need to rid the lists of allegedly wrong voters, a phenomenon several studies have found to be almost non-existent.

Election experts say such moves will effectively disenfranchise millions of voters, particularly low-income residents who do not have the means to get to the polls and who rely on absentee voting and early voting.

Hand counting of paper ballots is logistically impossible, voting experts say. It would take tens of thousands of workers to count the votes, and the counts would be far less accurate than electronic voters. Erasing the voting lists would sow chaos and inevitably result in dozens of voters being disenfranchised, they add.

Reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Ross Colvin, Howard Goller and Jonathan Oatis

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