Big Lie candidates running in November 

MGN

First in a series

This is the first of MSR’s “Elections Under Attack” series that looks at four threats to our elections growing out of the Big Lie that the former president won the 2020 election. Articles in the series look at each of these threats to democratic elections in the United States, with an emphasis on Minnesota. 

In Minnesota, Republican Kim Crockett is running for Secretary of State on a Big Lie platform. She calls the 2020 election “lawless,” “illegitimate” and “rigged.” She wants to severely restrict absentee and mail voting, saying that postal workers cannot be trusted to deliver ballots. 

Her lies about elections put her squarely in the ranks of Republicans running on the Big Lie platform this year—and she’s running for the statewide office that has the most to do with election integrity.

Across the country, right-wing proponents of the Big Lie have launched attacks against voting rights, election processes, and election officials. Besides these ongoing attacks, dozens of Big Lie candidates are running for key state offices that will give them control of election machinery. 

The Big Lie about U.S. elections has two parts: first, that the former president actually won the election, and second, that widespread election fraud stole the election from him. “Big Lie” is a term that originated with the Nazis in Germany. The term means that if you tell a big enough lie and repeat it often enough, people will believe it. 

The truth: the former president lost the 2020 election and no significant election fraud has been found anywhere. Even Republican investigators, hired by Republican legislatures, have not found fraud. 

As a Big Lie candidate, Crockett is not alone. A large majority of Republican candidates for offices that have authority over elections are election deniers. These include candidates for secretary of state in at least 11 states, as well as some candidates for governor and attorney general offices. 

The Arizona candidate for secretary of state marched on the Capitol on January 6, insists the 2020 election was rigged, and wants to allow state legislators to reject election results. In Pennsylvania, Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano is an election denier who tried to get the 2020 election overturned. If elected governor, he would be the state official charged with certifying election results. Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen said the 2020 election was not fair and that “I have no way of knowing” whether it was stolen. 

In addition to her candidacy for secretary of state, Crockett is part of a network recruiting right-wing poll watchers and election judges. The network is headed by Cleva Mitchell, who was on the phone call in which Trump tried to pressure Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to “find” enough votes to change the election result. 

In Minnesota, election judges are recruited and trained at the county level. They may be paid or volunteer their time, and they receive two hours of training. They usually work from 6 am to 9 pm on election day. 

Minnesota law allows “challengers” rather than “poll watchers.” Each party and each candidate may nominate one challenger per polling place. While challengers may remain inside polling places, a code of conduct governs what they may and may not do. 

At the local level, election deniers can sabotage elections. In July, after Pennsylvania’s primary election, three conservative counties refused to process absentee ballots that did not have a date written on the return envelope. In New Mexico,  conservative Otero County refused to certify the June 2021 primary election results at all. They said they just did not trust voting machines in the heavily Republican county, though they could not give any reason for their feelings of mistrust. 

Kim Crockett gives plenty of reasons for mistrusting elections. The reasons she gives show her near-complete ignorance of the way that elections actually function in Minnesota. The Minnesota Reformer has compiled a list of some of her recent statements:

  • “She said the secretary of state counts the votes. That’s false. Counties and cities count votes. 
  • “She said the secretary of state mailed her a ballot, but that’s impossible. Cities and counties mail ballots, not the secretary of state.
  • “She said military ballots were delivered to the secretary of state’s office. That’s false: They go back to the county that sent them.  
  • “She said she wasn’t sure whether military ballots are counted by counties or the state. Ballots aren’t counted by the state.
  • “She has repeatedly said the state’s residency requirement for elections is 20 days in a precinct, which is false.  
  • “She said postmarks are required on absentee ballot envelopes. That’s false. 
  • “She said when the state was under Democratic control, absentee balloting was expanded from ‘a week or two’ of early voting to 46 days. That’s false. 
  • “She repeatedly claims Minnesota got rid of voter ID. Minnesota has never required identification to vote.
  • “She frequently complains about ‘the widespread use of drop boxes in DFL-strongholds’ such as Minneapolis, which has never had unstaffed ballot drop boxes.” 

Whether at the state or local level, the Big Lie candidates threaten democracy by threatening elections. November’s election will be crucial to the future of both democracy and elections in the United States. 

Next week: Part II: Sabotaging the election process. In coming weeks: Part III: Threats to election officials; Part IV: Attacking voting rights.

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