It’s been nearly two years since the 2020 election, but the myth that the election was somehow stolen from former President Donald Trump has not dissipated. Instead, it has gained momentum as a contingent of Trump supporters is harnessing it to fuel campaigns for Tuesday’s primaries. 

The America First Secretary of State Coalition is backing pro-Trump candidates across the country who are running for secretary of state, a low-profile office that plays a key role in certifying elections. What is the group trying to accomplish?

An election denier on the ballot in Arizona

One such candidate looking to upend the voting process in Arizona, a battleground state crucial to President Joe Biden’s win in 2020, is Mark Finchem, a state representative. Finchem has Trump’s backing in Arizona’s GOP primary on Tuesday, and a recent poll shows him ahead of his closest contender by 21 points — although a plurality of respondents, 41%, still say they are unsure.

Seizing on Trump’s grievances about the 2020 election, Finchem — along with other coalition members — is proposing sweeping changes to elections, including eliminating electronic voting machines, ending early voting and getting rid of mail-in ballots, according to the coalition’s website.

There is no evidence that electronic voting machines or mail-in ballots are more susceptible to election fraud, nor that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Finchem isn’t the only coalition member seeking to oversee state elections. Jim Marchant, the coalition’s founder, won Nevada’s GOP primary last month, and Doug Mastriano is the Republican pick for governor in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, the governor selects the secretary of state.

The coalition has suffered a handful of high-profile defeats, including U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., who lost the Georgia primary for secretary of state, and Tina Peters, a Colorado county clerk who sought the same office in her state. Peters was indicted earlier this year and faces six felony charges related to voting machine tampering. Peters has pleaded not guilty

Finchem faces a crowded primary in Arizona — including a challenge from Beau Lane, who is endorsed by Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. But a win would place a prominent conspiracy theorist one general election away from holding the reins in a key swing state.

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Why election officials matter

The Trump campaign’s efforts to overturn election results in swing states in 2020 failed for a variety of reasons, but chief among them was pushback from state and local election officials.

Most notably, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, rebuffed Trump’s request to “find” enough votes to give Trump the edge over Biden. With election conspiracy theorists in office, future attempts to manipulate results will likely occur. To the relief of many moderates, Raffensperger won reelection in May.

Finchem, along with Kari Lake, a Trump-backed candidate in Arizona’s GOP gubernatorial  race, are already sowing doubt about upcoming elections, suggesting fraud will be to blame if they lose Tuesday.

“Ain’t gonna be no concession speech coming from this guy,” Finchem told supporters at a fundraiser in June. “I’m going to demand a 100% hand count if there’s the slightest hint that there’s an impropriety.”

“(Trump) did not concede, and I think that was really smart because that was the most dirty, filthy, rotten election I’ve ever seen,” Lake said.

As a state lawmaker, Finchem co-sponsored a bill that would give the Arizona Legislature the power to overturn election results. In an email earlier this year, Finchem told supporters that if he had been the secretary of state in 2020, “we would have won. Plain and simple.”

What’s next?

Polls close in Arizona’s primary races on Tuesday at 8 p.m. MDT, though a winner may not be called for several days if the races are close. In Kansas, Mike Brown, GOP candidate for secretary of state in Kansas, faces incumbent Scott Schwab in a Republican primary today.

The general election will be held Nov. 8, with America First Secretary of State Coalition candidates already on the ballot in several states, including Nevada, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Indiana.