Wisconsin’s secretary of state has no role in the election, but that could change if Republicans can change seats this year and pass a law that gives the office more responsibility.
All three Republican candidates running for the nomination in Tuesday’s primary backed the shift and echoed former President Donald Trump’s false claim that fraud cost him the 2020 election.
If successful, the move would be a bold attempt to shift power to an office the GOP hopes to control in the 2024 presidential election, a far cry from what happened six years ago when Republicans created the Wisconsin Election Commission with bipartisan support. In 2020, Democrat Joe Biden won Wisconsin by about 21,000 votes in the presidential race.
“It’s not about policy,” said David Becker, a former Justice Department attorney and director of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research. “It’s about the outcome of the election, and it’s only about the outcome of the election.”
Once a low-key contest overshadowed by the gubernatorial and state attorney general races, this year’s campaign for secretary of state has attracted huge interest and money, largely driven by the 2020 election, when voting systems and procedures were swayed by Trump and his supporter. There is no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of the voting system in the 2020 election.
There are also primary races for secretary of state in Minnesota, Connecticut and Vermont on Tuesday. In Minnesota, the leading Republican candidate called the 2020 election “rigged” and was criticized for a video attacking three prominent Jewish Democrats, including Democrat Steve Simon, who is seeking re-election.
Despite the high stakes, Wisconsin’s primary election for secretary of state has been quietly underway for most of it. Incumbent Democrat Doug LaFollette barely campaigned. In June, the 81-year-old, who was first elected to the position in 1974, opted to take a two-week trip to Africa.
La Follette has raised about $21,000, according to the latest campaign finance report. This is not unusual, as the office’s sole responsibility is to sit on the state timber board and verify certain travel documents.
La Follette has said he decided to run again to stop Republicans from meddling in the election, citing Trump’s call after the 2020 election to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to ask him ” Find “enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in the state. La Follette’s chief opponent Alexia Sabol, chair of the Dane County Democratic Executive Committee, raised about $24,000.
GOP candidates argue that dismantling the Election Commission and empowering the secretary of state to oversee elections would allow voters to hold someone accountable for important election-related decisions. They both sharply criticized the committee’s decision ahead of the 2020 election, when the COVID-19 pandemic posed a major challenge to the election.
To achieve their goals, Republicans also need to defeat Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November, who will block the move.
The leading fundraiser among the Republican candidates for secretary of state is state Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, who reported donations of about $94,000. The other two Republicans are businessman Jay Schroeder and Justin Schmidtka, who hosts the Politics podcast. Also on the ballot was Liberal candidate Neil Harmon.
In Minnesota, Republican lead secretary of state candidate Kim Crockett called the 2020 election a “train wreck” and accused state election officials of using the pandemic as “a cover to change the way we vote, and how our votes are counted” Way.”
While Crockett typically doesn’t claim publicly that elections were stolen from Trump, she has ties to those who do, and has been on campaigns with them.
Backed by delegates at the Assembly of States Parties in May, Crockett showed a video depicting billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros as a puppet master pulling current Secretary of State Simon and prominent election lawyer Mark Elias’ headline: “Let’s destroy the election forever, forever, forever.”
All three were Jewish. The Republican state chairman was quick to apologize, claiming that Crockett didn’t intend to make it anti-Semitic. Crockett made no apology, sending a fundraising letter titled “Media Smear and Communist Tears” the day after the chairman apologized, claiming she was the victim of a “man-made false political attack.”
In their respective primaries, Crockett and Simon face little-known opponents — Republican Eric Van Mechelen and Democrat Steve Carlson.
The races in Connecticut and Vermont have drawn significant interest after two longtime Democratic secretaries of state said they would not seek re-election.
Much of the debate in Connecticut’s Democratic and Republican primaries has centered on voter ID requirements. Voters in Connecticut can sign an affidavit instead of showing ID, and multiple forms of ID are accepted, including bank statements or current utility bills.
Republican candidate Dominic Rapini, a former chairman of the board of a group called Fight Voter Fraud Inc., called for tightening identification requirements and cleaning up the state’s voter roll. While Rapini said he was skeptical of voter fraud in Connecticut and believed reform was necessary, he did not respond to Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
Rapini faced state Rep. Terry Wood, R-Darien, who also called for stricter voter ID rules and a cleanup of voter rolls.
On the Democratic side, both candidates oppose Republican proposals on voter ID. State Rep. Stephanie Thomas of Norwalk, who won the party’s support at this spring’s state convention, will face New Haven Surgeon General Marissa Bond.
In Vermont, the Democratic primary has received the most attention. Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos will drop out of the ballot for the first time since 2010 after announcing his retirement plans.
In Tuesday’s primary, all three Democratic candidates pledged to continue their efforts to make elections in the state as easy and safe as possible. Last year, the legislature passed a law requiring general election ballots to be mailed to all registered voters, although people still have the option to vote in person on Election Day.
The candidates are Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters, who has been in office for 25 years; state Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, who co-sponsored last year’s voting law; Montpellier City Clerk John Odum has overseen the Vermont capital election for the past decade.
H. Brooke Paige, a perennial candidate for office, was the only candidate in the Republican primary. He also appeared on ballots for three other statewide offices.
Cassidy reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Steve Kanofsky in Minneapolis, Susan Hague in Hartford, Conn., and Wilson Lin in Montpellier, Vermont contributed to this report .