Where Do Election Deniers Oversee Elections as Secretary of State?

February 1, 2024
Election Reformers Network

In the 2022 cycle, 28 states held elections to select their chief election official (usually the secretary of state). At least 33 candidates for these statewide offices ran while questioning or denying the results of the 2020 presidential election — raising questions about whether they would conduct their work impartially if elected.  

Many of these candidates were defeated or withdrew in the primaries, but 13 advanced to the general election.

Ultimately, most of these candidates were rejected by voters as well, notably in key swing states like Nevada, Michigan, and Arizona. But in five states, election-denying candidates emerged victorious as their state’s chief election official. Since then, a previously-elected Secretary in West Virginia has also begun to make public statements supporting debunked conspiracy theories.

MAP: Where Election Deniers Oversee State Elections

Note: In Florida, the Secretary of State is appointed by the Governor.

The impact these secretaries of state will have on the 2024 election is yet to be seen. But the fact that they all were elected even after a campaign in which there was an intense focus on the threat from deniers makes one thing crystal clear: Electoral politics alone aren’t enough to ensure our elections will be safe from hyper-partisanship. States must pass laws insulating election administration positions from partisan politics.

Below are profiles of the secretaries-elect who currently control the offices as of February 2024. See Sections 2 and 3 for profiles of candidates who ran unsuccessfully in 2022.  

Section 1: Election Deniers who Oversee State Elections

Alabama: Secretary Wes Allen

“Alabama taxpayers do not want their information provided to a Soros-funded, leftist group like ERIC.”

Press Release, January 31

As a State Rep., Wes Allen made headlines for his intent to withdraw Alabama from the cross-state electronic voter registration database, ERIC, accusing the system of being “leftist” (which the incumbent, term-limied Republican Secretary of State, John Merrill, denied). Allen has also supported false information and efforts to overturn the 2020 election on Twitter.

Allen won the general election with 66.3% of the vote.

Florida: Secretary of State Cord Byrd

“There were irregularities in certain states. … I’m not the secretary of state of Wisconsin or Pennsylvania or Arizona. That’s up to their voters.”

–via Orlando Sentinel, May 5, 2022

Byrd, a former state legislator, was appointed to replace former Secretary Laurel Lee, who resigned to run for Congress in Florida’s 15th congressional district. Byrd now oversees the controversial election crimes unit of the state government, and was re-appointed after incumbent Governor Ron DeSantis won re-election.

Byrd has refused to answer questions regarding whether or not President Biden legitimately won the 2020 election.

In 2020, he was a featured speaker at a conference featuring other election deniers and conspiracy theorists.

Indiana: Secretary Diego Morales

“It was an honor and privilege to be in the studio with Steve Bannon and to be featured on his show.”

–via Twitter, January 5, 2021

In addition to appearing on the talk show of a known election outcome denier and conspiracy theorist, Morales has said he will “help take back the presidency in ’24” and that Trump had the “right politics” when alleging he won the presidency in 2020. Morales once worked for the Indiana Secretary of State’s office, but left after being twice written up for poor performance.

In June of 2022, Morales upset incumbent Secretary of State Holli Sullivan for his party’s nomination for the general election ballot. He won the general election with 57.4% of the vote.

South Dakota: Secretary Monae Johnson

“I’m not going to acknowledge that.”

–Johnson on whether Biden was the legitimate winner of the 2020 election, October 2022

Johnson, a long-time employee of the Secretary of State’s office, upset incumbent Secretary of State Steve Barnett (who affirmed the results of the 2020 election) for nomination at the 2022 state Republican convention.

During an October 2022 interview, Johnson refused to acknowledge or affirm the legitimacy of President Biden’s election nationwide. She won the general election with 64.5% of the vote.

West Virginia: Secretary Mac Warner

“The (election) was stolen, and it was stolen by the CIA."

–Warner during a gubernatorial debate, December 2023

Warner has in the past expressed doubts about the integrity of the 2020 Presidential Election, but has explicitly taken on an election denial stance since entering the race for governor. In addition to his own candidacy, in 2024, Warner will oversee an election in which his brother is running to succeed him as secretary of state.

Wyoming: Secretary Chuck Gray

“‘2000 Mules’ clearly demonstrated how the woke, big tech left has stolen elections with ballot drop boxes.”

Cowboy State Daily Article, June 15, 2022

In June of 2022, as part of his campaign for Secretary of State, Rep. Gray hosted a screening of the debunked “documentary” 2000 Mules by right-wing filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, which alleges, against all evidence, that fraud occurred in the 2020 Presidential Election.

Gray ran unopposed in the general election.

Section 2: Unsuccessful Candidates (General Election)

Arizona: Rep. Mark Finchem (Lost General Election)

“#StopTheSteal has been instrumental in fighting the election fraud we’ve discovered!”

–via Twitter, December 5, 2020

First elected to the Arizona House in 2014, Rep. Finchem has consistently spread disinformation about the 2020 election, including claims that the election was stolen. He is affiliated with the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group, and indicated support for the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. On May 8, 2021, Finchem appeared on a QAnon conspiracy talk show, and is scheduled to appear at a Las Vegas QAnon conference in October 2021.

Finchem was a key player in the debunked Arizona Senate GOP’s so-called “audit” of the 2020 presidential election, and continues to maintain that President Trump won Arizona despite the contrary findings of the Trump-backed election review.

Massachusetts: Rayla Campbell (Lost General Election)

“We’re supposed to accept these results? I think not. We don’t lay down. We rise and we will fight in court and in the streets. At every turn at every opportunity and NEVER FATIGUE.”

–via Twitter, November 2020

Campbell, a podcast host and former candidate for lieutenant governor, regularly posts anti-vaccine sentiments on Facebook and, as seen above, was unwilling to accept the results of the 2020 election. During a prior campaign, Campbell was also photographed wearing clothing bearing a QAnon slogan.

Michigan: Kristina Karamo (Lost General Election)

“States like Michigan maintain insecure election systems having been exploited by those who stole the last election from the electorate having reelected President Trump.”

–via Official Campaign Website, May 2021

A college professor and frequent guest on conservative media panels, Karamo continues to insist that results in Antrim County, Michigan were fraudulent, despite the fact that audits proved otherwise. Karamo has spent weeks fighting the results of the 2020 election, and still maintains that President Trump won the state (and the election generally), even going so far as to file to intervene in a court case which sought to overturn electoral college results in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. In October of 2021, Karamo announced that she would be speaking at a QAnon conference event in Las Vegas.

Karamo was endorsed by the Michigan GOP on April 23, 2022 and subsequently won the nomination at the party’s state convention. Though she was unsuccessful in the general election, she has yet to concede the race, and was elected chair of the Michigan GOP in February of 2023.

Minnesota: Kim Crockett (Lost General Election)

“Our voter data hero!”

–Comment on the Facebook post of an election conspiracy theorist, March 2022

Crockett, a lawyer who was suspended from her role at a conservative think tank for her remarks about Somali refugees, has not out-and-out denied the results of the 2020 election. However, as referenced above, she associates with election conspiracy theorists, and handed out literature at a “Behind the Election Corruption Curtain” event hosted by fringe groups in Brainerd, MN.

Crockett received the endorsement of the Minnesota GOP on May 13, 2022.

Nevada: Jim Marchant (Lost General Election)

“We stand with you, President Trump, 100%. No election can be counted if fraud/cheating is involved. The evidence stacks up a mile high.”

–via Twitter, December 22, 2020

Former Nevada Assemblyman Jim Marchant ran to fill the open seat left by outgoing, term-limited Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, and was defeated by less than 3%.

Marchant has repeated disproven claims about the veracity of the 2020 election, and though he conceded defeat in his own 2020 run for congress, still asserts that “some shenanigans” were involved in his loss, and that both his race and former President Trump’s were “stolen.”  Marchant claims to have been approached by Trump allies personally to run for Secretary of State, and appeared with conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell at a speaking event. Marchant was also scheduled to appear at a QAnon convention in October of 2021.

On June 14, 2022, Marchant won the Nevada Secretary of State Republican Primary.

New Mexico: Audrey Trujillo (Lost General Election)

“Until we get a handle on the voter fraud in NM, all election are going to continue to be rigged. Why run? Run to lose? Thoughts anyone?”

–via Twitter, March 21, 2021

Audrey Trujillo has cast doubt on the integrity of elections and boosted conspiracy theories on her Twitter page, including spreading anti-semitic “new world order” materials. On her Facebook, Trujillo has also posted falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines.

Trujillo ran uncontested in the New Mexico Secretary of State Republican Primary.

North Dakota: Charles Tuttle (Lost General Election - Independent)

“Tuttle […] is a Trump supporter who has said ‘Trump won’ the 2020 election.”

–via Waco Tribune Article, October 2022

In addition to supporting conspiracy theories that then-President Trump was the real winner of the 2020 election, Tuttle regularly took to his campaign Facebook page to lob unfounded accusations at the then-current Secretary of State.

Ohio: Terpsichore “Tore” Maras-Lindeman (Lost in General Election - Independent)

“Maras-Lindeman has promised her followers that the plot will bring about ‘retaliation’ for what she believes was a stolen election last November…”

VICE article, June 2, 2021

Maras-Lindeman is a pro-Trump podcaster and Twitch streamer who was central to Trump lawyer Sidney Powell’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. In a civil fraud case, attorneys for the state of North Dakota said that Maras-Lindeman falsely claimed to be a medical doctor and to have both a PhD and an MBA.

Though she failed to qualify to be on the ballot for the Republican primary, Maras-Lindeman made the general election ballot as an independent in July 2022. Her candidacy was subsequently challenged by a state GOP official and she was disqualified from running, before ultimately being re-instated by the Ohio Supreme Court in a 4–2 decision.

Vermont: H. Brooke Paige (Lost General Election)

“The Constant Drip-Drip-Drip of Election Fraud Evidence is Beginning to Add Up to a Bucket Load of Proof that the 2020 Election was Stolen!”

–via Facebook, May 11, 2021

Paige is a perennial candidate in Vermont, often running for multiple statewide offices at once. Paige has cast doubt upon the validity of Dominion voting machines and the integrity of elections in his state.

Paige ran uncontested in the Vermont Secretary of State Republican Primary.

Section 3: Unsuccessful Candidates (Primary Elections)

Alabama: State Auditor Jim Ziegler (Lost in June 21, 2022 Runoff Election)

“He said that ‘extremely concerning questions remain’ about election administration in Georgia and Arizona, and he claims there were some ‘preliminary information’ to suggest ‘strange voting returns’ in several conservative-leaning counties in Alabama.”

AL.com article, February 6, 2022

As seen above, Ziegler has cast doubt on the validity of the 2020 election. He was endorsed by conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, and touted this endorsement on his campaign Twitter page.

Alaska: Paul Hueper (Defeated in Primary 08.16.22)

“The corruption of elections that [my wife] and I witnessed took us to D.C. on January 6th.”

Campaign announcement, January 31

Hueper gained notoriety in the press when his home was mistakenly raided by the FBI in connection to the January 6th capitol riot. While Hueper and his wife did not participate, Hueper is an active supporter of President Trump and alleges that “thousands” of election officials saw corruption take place during the 2020 elections. Hueper went so far as to state that “our vice president turned his back on us” regarding former V.P. Pence’s refusal to attempt to subvert the election results in Congress.

Alaska: Shirley Rainbolt (Defeated in Primary 08.16.22)

Rainbolt, a libertarian candidate for lieutenant governor of Alaska, did not have a high political profile. However, at the time of writing, her most recent tweet is a link to an election conspiracy video on Facebook.

Arizona: Rep. Shawnna Bolick (Defeated in Primary 08.02.22)

“Why did instructions included with a mail-in ballot on how to fill out a ballot change from using a black ballpoint pen to having voters voting at a voting center use a sharpie?”

–via Twitter, November 6, 2020

As seen above, Rep. Bolick promoted the widely-debunked “sharpiegate” conspiracy theory days after it was reported to be false. Also worth noting is that Bolick was the primary sponsor of the controversial bill HB 2720, which would have given the legislature the ability to ignore the state’s vote total and the Secretary of State’s certification of electors in favor of the preferred candidate of its members.

Arkansas: Rep. Mark Lowery (Withdrew from Race 01.25.22)

“I do believe Donald Trump was elected president [in 2020].”

–via Interview, June 9, 2021

Though five-term Rep. Mark Lowery announced his candidacy for Secretary of State, he decided to run for Arkansas State Treasurer on January 25, 2022. He was elected with 66.4% of the vote.

California: Rachel Hamm (Defeated in Primary 06.07.22)

“[QAnon] just speaks my language. I love it.”

–via video interview, February 3, 2021

Rachel Hamm, a pro-Trump author and media personality, sought the Republican nomination for the position of Chief Election Official in California. Hamm is notable for her public support of QAnon conspiracy theories. Additionally, Hamm made false claims about “2 million” inaccurately registered voters in the state of California, and received the endorsements of Trump affiliate Roger Stone and election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell.

Colorado: Tina Peters (Defeated in Primary 06.28.22)

“I want to fight against the Biden and the radical left to take over our vote, and I am the wall between your vote and nationalized elections.”

on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast, February 14, 2022

Peters is a former Mesa County, CO Clerk and Recorder who has embraced 2020 election conspiracy theories amid a grand jury investigation into allegations of election equipment tampering and official misconduct. In late 2021, a Mesa County Court judge upheld the Secretary of State’s order removing Ms. Peters from overseeing elections in the county and replacing her with an appointed Republican. In early February 2022, Peters turned herself in to authorities for charges of obstructing a peace officer and obstructing government operations.

Peters received the endorsement of former Colorado SOS candidate David Winney, a fellow election denier who exited the race on March 7th, 2022.

Colorado: David Winney (Withdrew from Primary 03.07.22)

“In the 3 days of this Cyber Symposium, the overwhelming evidence of stolen election(s) cannot be ignored.”

–via campaign website, August 18, 2021

Winney accused incumbent Secretary of State Jena Griswold of acting illegally during the 2020 election. On his official campaign website, Winney posted “news” from notorious sources of election disinformation, including Mike Lindell and Mark Finchem. On March 7, 2022, Winney exited the race and endorsed former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters.

Georgia: Rep. Jody Hice (Defeated in Primary 05.24.22)

“Millions of Americans — myself included — feel that @realDonaldTrump was robbed of victory on Nov 3. […] For the sake of our democracy, I WILL OBJECT on Jan 6!!!”

–via Twitter, January 3, 2021

Rep. Hice, a U.S. Congressman with a history of repeating disproven election claims, was endorsed by former U.S. President Donald Trump against incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. In a May 2021 appeal to Georgia voters, Hice called Raffensperger a “back-stabbing” Republican for refusing Donald Trump’s demand to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, claiming Raffensperger worked “arm and arm with Stacey Abrams to deliver the presidency and Senate to the radical left.” Also worth noting is that Hice was one of more than 100 lawmakers to object to the certification of the Georgia electoral vote.

Georgia: Fmr. Mayor David Belle Isle (Defeated in Primary 05.24.22)

“[Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger] certified the wrong result.”

–via interview, September 22, 2021

Belle Isle, the former mayor of Alpharetta, also challenged current Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in the 2018 election. Though Raffensperger ran a secure election, certified the correct results, and withstood immense partisan pressure, Belle Isle wrote on his campaign website: “Raffensperger single-handedly bargained away our election integrity and skewered the credibility or our mail-in ballots.” One campaign ad featured a depiction of Raffensperger jumping into a car with the vanity plate “VOTESTLR.”

Idaho: Rep. Dorothy Moon (Defeated in Primary 05.17.22)

“The Governor has taken no action to address voter fraud!”

–via Facebook, January 5, 2021

In an April 2022 debate, Moon explicitly denied that the 2020 election delivered the correct result. She also has made baseless accusations of fraud in her home state, including allegations that Canadians vote illegally in Idaho elections (a claim which was refuted by the Secretary of State).

In July of 2022, Moon was selected to be the chair of the Idaho GOP.

Idaho: Sen. Mary Souza (Defeated in Primary 05.17.22)

“I do not think that Joe Biden won the presidential election, but he has been named president and that’s been certified.”

–via Debate, April 26, 2022

Senator Souza has made unfounded claims of wrongdoing in the 2020 election, that a “death by a thousand cuts” across the states caused Biden to be wrongfully elected.

Kansas: Commissioner Mike Brown (Defeated in Primary 08.02.22)

“Right now I’ve got my own war drum — and I’m waiting for the other side to give me reason to pound on it. And I will. Say when.”

–via Facebook, September 2020

Brown, a former commissioner from Johnson County, ran to replace incumbent Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwab in 2022. Brown echoed unfounded concerns that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by supposed voter fraud, and referred to the COVID-19 pandemic as a “political stunt.” Johnson lost his bid for re-election to the Johnson County Commission in 2020 after making controversial calls to take up arms during a period of racial unrest.

In February of 2023, Brown was selected to chair the Kansas GOP.

Minnesota: Phillip Parrish (Exited Race 10.22.21)

“The fact that big tech, weaponized government agencies, and thugs (Chinese Communist Party) are doing everything humanly possible to shut down Mike Lindell, the Cyber Symposium, and all platforms or persons trying to get we the people the truth, demonstrates we are telling the truth!”

–via Facebook, August 10, 2021

A former Navy intelligence officer, Parrish has made unsuccessful bids for governor, senator, and Republican Party chair in Minnesota. As seen above, Parrish is a sympathizer of conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, whose allegations of fraud have been repeatedly disproven. Parish has repeatedly claimed fraud was involved in the outcomes of the 2020 election, not only for president, but across Minnesota. Parrish has also made pleas for the public to “not comply” with the “COVID scam” and has made insinuations that the Democrats are involved with human trafficking and/or the creation of COVID-19, both QAnon talking points.

Nebraska: Robert Borer (Defeated in Primary 05.10.22)

“The senator should know Biden isn’t President. Basic stuff.“

–via Twitter, March 2021

Borer is a retired firefighter, an election conspiracy theorist, and an anti-vaccine activist. Though Borer doesn’t believe that Biden won the 2020 election, he has also been critical of fellow Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, for promoting vaccines and COVID health safety.

Nebraska: Rex Schroder (Defeated in Primary 05.10.22)

“Many of the problems this country face today are a direct result of a Fraudulent Election in my opinion.”

–via Facebook, December 2021

Schroder repeatedly cast doubt on the integrity of the voting machines used in the 2020 election in Nebraska, calling for them to be thrown in the river. As seen above, he also has cast suspicion on the legitimacy of elections generally.

Nevada: John Cardiff Gerhardt (Defeated in Primary 06.14.22)

A draft [state constitution] proposal integrates elements of the conspiracy, including an official recognition that a “Cabal” is attempting to “control & corrupt the State of Nevada.”

Associated Press story, September 6, 2020

Gerhardt, who previously ran for office as an independent, sought the GOP nomination for Nevada Secretary of State. In addition to subscribing to QAnon “deep state” conspiracy theories, the Nevada Current reports that Gerhardt does not believe the COVID-19 pandemic is real.

Ohio: Former State Rep. John Adams (Defeated in Primary 05.02.22)

“I’d stay with the fact that there were shenanigans that went on in [the 2020] election and there are questions that have not been resolved yet.”

–via interview, August 23, 2021

Former Ohio State Rep John Adams ran in the Republican primary against incumbent Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Adams has expressed doubts about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election, despite the fact that conspiracy theories about voter fraud have been debunked.

Washington: Tamborine Borrelli (Defeated in Primary 08.02.22)

“Borrelli has levied claims that hundreds of thousands of votes across the state were illegally altered in 2020, and that local auditors ‘used uncertified voting systems’ to tabulate ballots.”

MYNorthwest Article, April 4, 2022

Johnson has also publicly supported anti-vaccine conspiracy movements.

Wyoming: State Senator Dan Dockstader (Withdrew from Race 07.06.22)

“Thirty-two sitting or recently elected state lawmakers signed a letter urging Gov. Mark Gordon to engage Wyoming in a lawsuit brought by the Texas attorney general that seeks to overturn the presidential election results of four swing states.”

WyoFile Article, December 9, 2020

Shortly after incumbent Secretary of State Ed Buchanan announced he would not seek re-election, Senator Dockstader, the President of the Wyoming State Senate, announced his candidacy for the position. Dockstader was one of 32 Wyoming state senators to sign a letter advocating to overturn the 2020 presidential election results based on no evidence of fraud or wrongdoing.