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Analysis

Election Denial on the Ballot

A new report shows the broad reach of election denial among 2022 candidates for state and local offices that will run the 2024 elections.

May 24, 2022
Money lying on top of words about election denial
Daniel Cullen/Spyros Arsenis/EyeEm/Alan Schein Photography/Getty

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The 2022 midterms will be a refer­en­dum on elec­tions them­selves.

Look at Pennsylvania, where State Sen. Doug Mastri­ano, a lead­ing proponent of the Big Lie that fraud decided the 2020 elec­tion, won the GOP primary for governor. He ran on a prom­ise to “decer­tify” the 2020 results, has raised the prospect of the state legis­lature appoint­ing its own slate of elect­ors in future pres­id­en­tial elec­tions, and proposes to wipe all voters from the rolls. “You’re going to have to re-register — we’re going to start all over again,” he bragged. 

Mastri­ano is far from alone in his views on voter fraud. The Bren­nan Center today released a new install­ment in our series on elec­tion deniers on the ballot. It paints a picture of candid­ates nation­wide, up and down the ballot, campaign­ing on false alleg­a­tions of voter fraud. 

The Repub­lican Party of Minnesota recently endorsed for governor Scott Jensen, who has called the elec­tion process “bastard­ized” and implied that the Minnesota secret­ary of state could be jailed for it. Michigan Repub­lic­ans nomin­ated for secret­ary of state Kristina Karamo, who claims there is a “massive coverup” of 2020 elec­tion fraud. The list of elec­tion deniers running for office goes on and on. 

Elec­tion admin­is­trator races once were mostly sleepy local affairs. Now they are nation­al­ized, with funds flow­ing on both sides. Candid­ates for secret­ary of state have raised $13.3 million across six battle­ground states so far during this cycle, more than two and a half times the $4.7 million raised by this point in 2018 and more than five times as in 2014. Much of the money given to these candid­ates comes from outside the state.

This is not the first year candid­ates have tried to inter­fere with the vote. In 2011, when state legis­latures changed hands, many Repub­lic­ans enacted meas­ures to restrict voting rights. They were not respond­ing to any public demand. Rather, it was a partisan move they thought they could get away with. (As it happens, courts blocked or blun­ted most of the worst laws.) Now, alarm­ingly, calls for restrict­ive voting meas­ures are coming from constitu­ents. Many offi­cials know the fraud claims are nonsense. But millions of voters — and a surpris­ing number of donors — don’t. They believe the lie. It is now an organ­iz­ing, mobil­iz­ing, unify­ing polit­ical issue on the right.  

Here’s a hint that the politi­cians at least know better (a hint in, of all places, Pennsylvania). Mehmet Oz and Dave McCor­mack are locked in a tight race for the Repub­lican nomin­a­tion for U.S. Senate. Oz’s lead has shrunk to less than 1,000 votes. The margin will come from mail ballots with disputed dates, which are still being coun­ted. Amaz­ingly, neither candid­ate has screamed “fraud!” or “rigged!” or “stop the steal!” Not yet, at least. You see, the elec­tion is only fraud­u­lent when you lose.