January 30, 2023

Wisconsin’s secretary of state has no role in the election, but that could change if Republicans can flip the seat this year and pass a law that would give the office much greater responsibilities.

All three GOP candidates running for the nomination in Tuesday’s primaries support the change and echo former President Donald Trump’s false claims that fraud cost him the 2020 election.

If successful, the move would be a bold attempt to shift power to an office that Republicans hoped would control the 2024 presidential election and would be a reversal of just six years ago when Republicans established the Wisconsin Election Commission with bipartisan support. In 2020, Democrat Joe Biden won Wisconsin by nearly 21,000 votes in the presidential race.

“It’s not about politics,” said David Baker, a former US Justice Department attorney who heads the nonpartisan Center for Election Research and Innovation. “It is only about the results and results of the elections.”

Once overshadowed by the election campaigns of the governor and state attorney general, the contest for the position of Secretary of State has been attracting significant attention and money this year, spurred largely by the 2020 election, when voting systems and processes came under attack by Trump and. his supporters. There is no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of voting systems in the 2020 elections.

There are also primaries on Tuesday in the Secretary of State races in Minnesota, Connecticut and Vermont. In Minnesota, the leading Republican candidate called the 2020 election “rigged” and faced criticism over a video clip attacking three prominent Democratic Jews, including current Secretary of State, Democrat Steve Simon, who is seeking re-election.

Although the stakes are high, Wisconsin’s secretary of state primaries have been mostly quiet. The incumbent, Democrat Doug La Follett, was barely campaigning. In June, the 81-year-old, who was first elected to the position in 1974, chose to take a two-week trip to Africa.

La Follette has raised about $21,000, according to the latest campaign finance reports. This is not unusual as the office’s only duties are to sit on a state plank and check certain travel documents.

La Follett said he decided to run again to prevent Republicans from interfering in the election, citing Trump’s call to Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Ravensberger, after the 2020 election asking him to “find” enough votes to annul Biden’s victory in the state. La Follett’s primary opponent, Alexia Sabor, chair of the Dane County Democratic Party Executive Board, raised about $24,000.

Republican candidates argue that dissolving the Electoral Commission and empowering the Secretary of State to oversee elections would allow voters to hold someone accountable for important election-related decisions. They have all been highly critical of the decisions made by the committee ahead of the 2020 elections, when the COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant challenges to the conduct of the elections.

To achieve their goal, Republicans will also need to defeat Democratic Governor Tony Evers, who would object to such a move, in November.

Representative Amy Ludenbeck, the largest fundraiser among GOP Secretary of State candidates, has reported contributions of up to $94,000. The other two Republicans are businessman Jay Schroeder and Justin Schmidtka, who hosts a political podcast. Also on the ballot is liberal candidate Neil Harmon.

In Minnesota, the leading Republican candidate for Secretary of State, 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, as well as how votes are counted. . “

While Crockett does not publicly claim that the election was stolen from Trump, she has linked to those who did and campaigned on occasions with them.

At the state party convention in May, at which Crockett was adopted by convention delegates, she showed off a video depicting billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros as a puppet master, pulling the strings of Simon, the current Secretary of State, and prominent election lawyer Mark. Elias, with a comment saying, “Let’s eliminate elections forever and ever.”

The three men are Jews. The Republican head of state soon apologized, claiming that Crockett had not intended to be an anti-Semite. Crockett did not apologize, and one day after the chairman did apologize, he sent a fundraising letter titled “Media Distortion and Communist Tears” in which he claimed she was the victim of “fake and contrived political attacks”.

In their respective primaries, Crockett and Simon face two lesser known opponents – Republican Eric Van Mecklen and Democrat Steve Carlson.

Races in Connecticut and Vermont drew a lot of attention after two longtime Democratic secretaries of state said they would not seek re-election.

Much of the debate in both Connecticut’s Democratic and Republican primaries has focused on voter identification requirements. A Connecticut voter can sign an affidavit instead of providing an ID, and several forms of identification are accepted, including a current bank statement or utility bill.

Republican candidate Dominic Rabini, a former chairman of a group called Fight Voter Fraud Inc. , to tighten identity requirements and clean up state voter lists. While Rabini says he is skeptical about voter fraud in Connecticut and believes reforms are necessary, he did not repeat Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

Rabini is facing Representative Terry Wood, Republican, who has also called for tighter voter identification rules and cleaning up voter lists.

On the Democratic side, both candidates oppose the Republican Party’s proposals on voter identity. State Representative Stephanie Thomas of Norwalk, who won the party’s endorsement at the state convention this spring, faces Maritza Bond, New Haven’s director of health.

In Vermont, the Democratic primary has attracted the most attention. For the first time since 2010, Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos will not be on the ballot after announcing plans to retire.

The three Democratic primary candidates on Tuesday promised to continue efforts to make elections in the state as accessible and secure as possible. Last year, the legislature passed a law requiring public ballots to be mailed to all registered voters, although people can still choose to vote in person on Election Day.

The nominees are Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters, who has served in the office for 25 years; Representative Sarah Copeland Hansas, who co-sponsored last year’s Voting Act; and Montpellier city clerk John Odom, who has overseen elections in the Vermont capital for the past decade.

Brooke Page, the permanent candidate for the position, is the only person to run in the Republican primary. He also appeared on the ballot for three other statewide offices.


Cassidy reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Steve Karnovsky in Minneapolis, Susan Hay in Hartford, Connecticut, and Wilson Ring in Montpellier, Vermont contributed to this report.

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