The outcomes of these state races could either protect or undermine US democracy: law professor

The outcomes of these state races could either protect or undermine US democracy: law professor

If Republicans enjoy a major red wave in the 2022 midterms, they could flip not only the U.S. Senate and/or the U.S. House of Representatives, but also, governor’s offices and state legislatures. And some of the most important races of all, University of Michigan law professor Barbara McQuade argues in an op-ed published by the New York Times on May 12, are state elections for secretary of state.

The 57-year-old McQuade, a former federal prosecutor who has often been featured as a legal analyst on MSNBC, has been a vehement critic of former President Donald Trump and the MAGA movement. And in her op-ed, she warns that MAGA Republicans who win secretary of state elections in individual states could abuse their power and help steal elections.

“The fate of our democracy doesn’t hinge on the battle for the House or the fight for control of the Senate, but on state elections for a once sleepy office: secretaries of state,” McQuade emphasizes. “No elected officials will be more pivotal to protecting democracy — or subverting it — than secretaries of state. While their responsibilities vary from state to state, most oversee elections — a role in which they wield a tremendous amount of power. Secretaries of state own the bully pulpit on voting, and they control the machinery of elections.”

McQuade, a native of Detroit, continues, “They also have a platform to spread disinformation, such as false claims that voting by mail is not secure. A Republican secretary of state could reduce the number of ballot boxes or polling places in Democratic areas and limit staffing to create long lines that dissuade potential voters. They can also refuse to certify the results in particular counties or even the entire state. In a close presidential race, if even one secretary of state in a swing state were to put his thumb on the scale, we could see an election that really is stolen.”

The law professor notes that 27 states in the U.S. will have elections for secretary of state, warning that “in 17 of those states, at least one of the Republican candidates for the office actively denies that President Biden won the 2020 election.” Examples of GOP secretary of state candidates who are campaigning on the Big Lie include far-right conspiracy theorist Kristina Karamo in McQuade’s state, Michigan, and Rep. Jody Hice in Georgia; the Trump-backed Hice is running against incumbent Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a GOP primary.

Although Raffensperger is a conservative Republican, he infuriated Trump and other MAGA Republicans when he refused to promote the Big Lie and acknowledged that Joe Biden won Georgia fair and square in the 2020 presidential election.

“Other candidates for secretary of state include Mark Finchem in Arizona and Jim Marchant in Nevada,” McQuade observes. “Mr. Finchem, a state representative who attended the Stop the Steal Rally in Washington last year, has introduced a resolution to decertify the results of the 2020 election in three big counties and a bill to empower the Arizona Legislature to reject election results…. Mr. Marchant has followed the same campaign playbook in Nevada.”

The Democratic, McQuade stresses, needs to invest heavily in secretary of state races — as the wellbeing of U.S. democracy depends on it.

“For Democrats to fend off the America First slate,” the law professor writes, “they will need to invest in these races, helping candidates build the name recognition they need to combat the onslaught from the right. That will take time, money and a strategy to raise awareness about the crucial role these offices play in protecting our democracy…. Races for other offices may attract bigger names, but elections for secretary of state may bring about the most significant shifts in power in 2022. As Mr. Trump has said, sometimes, the ‘vote counter is more important than the candidate.’”

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