Election denier loses race in Michigan; Arizona and Nevada not yet called

NEW YORK, Nov 9 (Reuters) - A backer of former President Donald Trump's false claims of election fraud lost her bid to oversee voting in Michigan, but it was unclear on Wednesday whether two other election deniers would succeed in similar bids in Arizona and Nevada.

Michigan's Democratic Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, held off a challenge by Republican Kristina Karamo, who could have used the position to influence the outcome of the presidential election in 2024 in a key swing state.

Edison Research had not yet projected whether election denier candidates would succeed in Arizona and Nevada, also states that play a key role in deciding U.S. presidential elections.

Democratic President Joe Biden narrowly won Michigan, Arizona and Nevada in 2020 and Trump and his allies have falsely claimed that the results were fraudulent.

Voting rights groups and constitutional scholars worry that any secretary of state who believes the Trump fraud claims could try to dispute or ignore the popular vote at the presidential election in 2024, refuse to certify the result, or even claim the losing candidate actually won their state.

Karamo soared to prominence when she claimed in 2020 that she had witnessed fraud at Detroit's absentee counting board as a poll observer. No evidence has ever emerged supporting those claims.

In 30 of the country's 50 states, election deniers were candidates for at least one state position overseeing elections - governor, secretary of state or attorney general, according to nonprofit advocacy group States United Action.

As of Wednesday, States Action United said 13 election deniers had won a statewide role in election administration in 9 states, while 24 election deniers had lost races in 17 states.

The group said that when it came to secretary of state races, three election deniers had won, eight had lost, while Arizona and Nevada were still undecided.

The races in Michigan, Arizona and Nevada are particularly important because they are key battleground states.


Mark Finchem, the Republican candidate for secretary of state in Arizona, said he would not have certified Biden's 2020 victory in the state. He also supported an audit of Arizona's election results and backed a bill that would give the state's legislature the power to overturn election results.

The secretary of state in Nevada cannot certify results but can set and enforce election rules. Republican candidate and former state assemblyman Jim Marchant opposed certification of Biden's win in the state in 2020.

Trump's false claims of fraud in 2020 were rejected by numerous court rulings, his own Justice Department and even Republican-led investigations at the state level.

Trump is considering launching this month a bid to win the White House again in 2024, according to several Trump advisers.

Ahead of Tuesday's elections, Biden accused Trump of inspiring Republican election denier candidates and warned voters: "Democracy is on the ballot for all of us."

Richard Gowan, U.N. director at the International Crisis Group think tank, said before Tuesday's election that if election deniers score some big wins it would undercut Biden's key U.S. foreign policy theme of promoting democracy.

"If U.S. democracy looks like it is back on life support, I think you'll see even good friends of the U.S. start to edge away from Washington on democracy issues," he said.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Additional reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Ross Colvin, Chizu Nomiyama, Claudia Parsons and Daniel Wallis

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