In Colorado and elsewhere, 2020 election deniers seek the best polling places | Top news
(Reuters) – Tina Peters, an election official from western Colorado, has been charged with voter tampering and barred by a judge from overseeing voting in her home county this year.
But Peters, who echoed former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged, is far from intimidated. She is seeking the Republican nomination for secretary of state in Tuesday’s primary contest, a position that would put her in charge of the state’s electoral apparatus.
Peters is among dozens of Republican candidates in November’s midterm elections who have rejected the legitimacy of the 2020 race and are seeking positions with huge influence in future elections, including in battleground states such as Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Nevada.
There are 23 election deniers in 17 states for the job of secretary of state, usually a state’s top election official, according to a tracker maintained by States United Action, a nonprofit advocacy group.
The races – once low-key – drew intense attention and huge fundraising totals after the 2020 election, when Trump and his allies sought unsuccessfully to alter the results in several key states.
The candidates’ rhetoric has alarmed good government advocacy groups, which warn that the 2024 presidential election could trigger a constitutional crisis if some states refuse to certify the results.
“I think people should be very concerned,” said Jessica Marsden, an attorney for Protect Democracy, a nonprofit group. “There is a very real chance that with their hands on the levers of power, some of these candidates could participate in a similar agenda to alter the outcome of future elections.”
Peters’ campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Peters is among a slate of Republican candidates for secretary of state, the First Secretary of State’s Coalition, who share similar messages about voter fraud.
The group was founded by Jim Marchant, a former Nevada lawmaker who won that state’s Republican nomination for secretary of state last week. Marchant, who did not respond to a request for comment, said he would not certify Democratic President Joe Biden’s victory in Nevada in 2020.
The coalition has received financial support from The America Project, an organization run in part by Mike Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser known for spreading election conspiracy theories.
Flynn’s group is also spending $100,000 on last-minute ads attacking Peters’ main Republican rival, Pam Anderson, according to campaign finance records — almost as much as Anderson has raised so far.
A Colorado grand jury indicted Peters in March for allegedly allowing a stranger access to the Mesa County Elections Office, where she serves as a clerk, and copying the voting system’s hard drive.
Peters denied any wrongdoing and accused Democratic Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold of targeting her for political reasons.
The indictment made Peters a hero in some conservative circles. She is a frequent guest on forums promoting election lies and has outdone her Republican opponents.
The breached data that sparked Peters’ criminal charges is cited by pro-Trump activists in presentations to local officials across the country as evidence of baseless conspiracy theories involving rigged voting machines.
“She’s a very patriotic clerk and clerk,” said Mark Cook, a technology consultant who worked for pillow mogul and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell. Cook was addressing a Lyon County, Nevada, board of commissioners on April 21 in a presentation that cast Peters’ tampering with election materials as a noble act.
Griswold, who is running for re-election, is also president of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State.
“It’s extremely dangerous, it provokes violence, and it’s being used to set the stage to steal the US election,” she said in an interview, referring to the lies about 2020.
Anderson, Peters’ main Republican opponent, told Reuters that Peters’ false rhetoric was “reckless at a minimum”.
“Election officials and officials who serve in these roles must stay above the political fray and push back,” said Anderson, a former county clerk.
(Reporting by Joseph Axe; Additional reporting by Linda So, Jason Szep and Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Ross Colvin and Daniel Wallis)
Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.