Democrat Adrian Fontes, left, and Republican Mark Finchem are running for Arizona secretary of state.
Secretary of state contests — typically low-profile races that determine who helps administer elections in a state – have drawn national attention and millions of dollars in political spending this year as several Republican nominees who doubt the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election pursue the jobs.
In all, voters in 27 states will choose secretaries of state in the midterms. Fourteen of those seats currently are held by Republicans and 13 by Democrats.
Now, the pivotal role these offices will play in affirming the outcome of future elections, including a potential 2024 rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.
Here’s a look at five key secretary of state races:
Arizona: Republican Arizona voters picked state Rep. Mark Finchem as their nominee. Finchem, who has described himself as a member of the far-right Oath Keeper’s group, scored Trump’s endorsement back in September 2021. The GOP lawmaker has lobbied to toss out the results of the 2020 election in some of the state’s largest counties – including Maricopa, home to Phoenix, where a widely derided review of ballots ordered by Republicans in the state Senate still concluded that Biden had won more votes than Trump did.
He faces Democrat Adrian Fontes, the former top election official in Maricopa County. He lost his reelection bid as county recorder two years ago.
Georgia: The Georgia contest features one of the country’s best-known election chiefs – Republican Brad Raffensperger, who refused Trump’s request to “find” the votes needed to overturn his loss in the Peach State.
Raffensperger’s national profile has made him a tougher target for the Democratic nominee, state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who has been rising political star in her own right. She has taken aim at Raffensperger’s support for an election law enacted last year that imposed new restrictions on voting and has seized on his views on abortion in an attempt to gain ground. The Republican’s campaign aides have argued that Raffensperger’s position on abortion is not relevant to the job he now holds.
Michigan: The race pits the incumbent, Democrat Jocelyn Benson – a leading national voice countering election denial – against Republican Kristina Karamo, who has made false claims about the 2020 election and who was behind the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
Karamo, a community college professor who secured an endorsement from Trump last year, has said he won the election, and she signed on to an unsuccessful Supreme Court lawsuit that challenged Biden’s victory in four states. She — along with Finchem and several other Republican nominees – have joined a coalition of so-called “America First Constitutional Conservative” candidates, who have pledged to ban mail-in ballots, expand voter identification and eliminate early voting.
Republicans in the state have criticized Benson for her decision to mail absentee ballot applications to every voter in 2020 during the pandemic, but courts have upheld her authority to do so.
Minnesota: Republican lawyer Kim Crockett is challenging Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon. Crockett would like to increase in-person voting, reduce the state’s current 46-day window of early voting and require that voters show ID to cast ballots in the state, which is not currently required for active voters under Minnesota law.
Republican lawmakers objected to Simon striking deals with litigants during the pandemic to drop the requirement that voters casting ballots by mail find another registered voter to witness their signatures.
Nevada: In Nevada, Republican Jim Marchant – a former state assemblyman who organized the coalition of America First candidates – and Democrat Cisco Aguilar are vying for an open seat in what has emerged as one of the more competitive secretary of state contests in the country.
On his website, Aguilar said he wants to “remove barriers to voter participation” and make elections transparent to “to maintain the public trust.”
But Marchant has drawn more national attention than Aguilar with his outspoken activism. Marchant has fed distrust of voting machines and encouraged county commissions in the rural reaches of the state to hand-count ballots – a practice critics say could lead to errors and delays in delivering results.