Arizona’s dangerous Republican ticket threatens democracy

by the Editorial Board, Washington Post

Arizona State Rep. Mark Finchem is one of the last people you’d want administering elections in a presidential battleground, yet Republicans nominated him Tuesday to be Arizona’s secretary of state, in another victory for denialists backed by former president Donald Trump.

Two years after Mr. Trump lost Arizona by more than 10,000 votes, Mr. Finchem continues to agitate for Arizona to decertify its results — never mind that it isn’t legally possible. He is a member of the Oath Keepers and was photographed outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He championed the bizarre “audit” of Maricopa County’s results by the self-described Cyber Ninjas.

With the race too close to call, another outspoken proponent of the “big lie,” Kari Lake, narrowly leads in the primary for governor. Ms. Lake and Mr. Finchem, working with “My Pillow guy” Mike Lindell, have filed a lawsuit in federal court aimed at blocking Arizona from using vote-counting machines. Their suit is meritless, but they would acquire power to meddle dramatically with voting systems if they win in November.

Mr. Finchem is part of a coalition of far-right extremists who are trying to seize control of the levers of vote-counting. In the neighboring swing state of Nevada in June, Republicans nominated former state lawmaker Jim Marchant — another election denier — for secretary of state. Ms. Lake said she wouldn’t have fulfilled her legal duty to certify Arizona’s results in 2020 and attacks Gov. Doug Ducey (R) for doing so. The possibility that she and Mr. Finchem could be in these jobs two years from now underscores the urgency of passing proposed reforms to the Electoral Count Act that would make it harder for bad actors to subvert democracy in a presidential election.

If Ms. Lake’s narrow lead holds, it will tee up a dramatic showdown in November against Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who won the Democratic primary for governor on Tuesday and has fought tirelessly to preserve the integrity of Arizona’s elections. Arizona Republicans also nominated venture capitalist Blake Masters as their challenger to Sen. Mark Kelly (D). Masters claims he thinks Mr. Trump won in 2020 and has even suggested that Jan. 6 was a “false-flag” operation.

Alas, this problem is not isolated to the Grand Canyon State: The “big lie” continues to find purchase elsewhere. Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year, was defeated by election-denier John Gibbs in his primary. Mr. Trump cheered that news on Wednesday, as well as the loss of Arizona House Speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers (R). Mr. Bowers evinced a profile in courage by refusing Mr. Trump’s demands to help overturn the Arizona results. Last month, he testified about the pressure he faced before the select congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

At a hearing in June, Mr. Bowers recalled asking Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani for evidence to substantiate allegations of voter fraud. “We’ve got lots of theories,” he said Mr. Giuliani told him. “We just don’t have the evidence.” That sums up the credo of the GOP ticket in Arizona.

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