Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose was clear in the months after the 2020 presidential election.
“Elections are run better and more honestly than really I think they ever have been,” he said in response to conspiracy theories being floated about the election. Months later, he said in an interview what has proved true in state after state – that voter fraud is rare.
Fast forward to 2022, when Republican secretaries of state face a delicate test with voters: Touting their work running clean elections while somehow not alienating GOP voters who believe the false claims of fraud fueled by former President Donald Trump and his allies.ADVERTISEMENT
LaRose has shifted his tone on Twitter, recently saying the “mainstream media is trying to minimize voter fraud to suit their narrative” and “President Donald Trump is right to say that voter fraud is a serious problem.”
That tweet came a day after LaRose learned he had drawn not one but two primary challengers, both of whom have said they believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
All but one of the eight incumbent Republican secretaries of state seeking to continue as their state’s elections chief have drawn at least one GOP challenger who either outright denies Democrat Joe Biden won the presidency or makes unsubstantiated claims that elections are not secure.
That raises the prospect that the nation’s voting process will become further politicized if candidates who embrace conspiracy theories or promote without evidence the false narrative of widespread fraud win races for offices such as secretary of state, which play critical roles in managing elections and are intended to be neutral.
Trey Grayson, a former Republican secretary of state from Kentucky who has been outspoken against the efforts to delegitimize the 2020 presidential results, said some of the incumbent GOP secretaries need room to maneuver politically so they can defeat opponents within their own party who might seek to undermine fair elections if they win.
“These are guardians of democracy,” he said. “Their opponents are people who don’t show respect for the law or evidence or the vote-counting process. They are willing to ignore counts, willing to ignore safeguards we have in the system. In some cases, they are just making stuff up.”