At least five Republican secretary of state candidates, some backed by former President Trump, have apparently formed a group with the goal of running elections.
Cries of election fraud, entirely unproven, have fallen on deaf ears. Costly, time-consuming audits have failed to show any evidence that the 2020 election was at all illegitimate. Conspiracy theorists are running out of ways to manipulate the electoral system from the outside — so some of them are seeking to take over the system from within.
According to a report from Vice, a handful of Republican candidates for political office across the country — including some who have been endorsed by Donald Trump, the former president and current founder of the only social network to get hacked before launching — have formed a coalition with the goal of taking control of state election systems.
The informal group, which is without a name for the time being, was announced at the QAnon-associated conference “For God & Country: Patriot Double Down,” which took place in Las Vegas over the weekend. The group is headed up by Jim Marchant, a Republican candidate running for Nevada secretary of state. He is joined, per Vice, by Republicans running for the same office in other key states around the country. The coalition includes candidates for secretary of state in Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, and California, along with one potential candidate considering a run for the office of governor in Pennsylvania.
Secretary of state for individual states is typically not an office that people get excited about come election season. But with far-right weirdos on the docket aiming to hijack the office, it could become an important front on the fight for democracy. Secretaries of state serve as the chief election official in their state, administering all elections throughout the state and certifying the results. Put a conspiracy theorist in charge of that role and, well, you can imagine what might happen.
The backers of this coalition seeking the executive office are reportedly supported by a real who’s who of loons. MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who seems content to spend all of his money embarrassing himself with failed attempts to prove election fraud, is supposedly backing the group. Patrick Byrne, the former CEO of Overstock.com who left his company after he claimed to have romanced a Russian agent at the behest of the federal government and encouraged Trump to declare martial law after the 2020 election, is also allegedly providing support.
Also reportedly getting in on the action: Jim Hoft, founder of the far-right conspiracy site The Gateway Pundit, and Brian Kennedy, senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, an organization that offered a fellowship role to Jack Posobiec, the guy who claimed Democratic politicians were involved in a child sex ring run out of a pizza restaurant.
Of course, there’s Trump, too. While he doesn’t seem to be directly involved, he has endorsed three of the candidates for office who have reportedly joined the coalition.
It’s also no accident that the announcement of this group was made at a QAnon conference. Supposed election fraud has become a central issue for the mass delusion that is QAnon, and true believers are all-in on anything that will put Trump back in office. According to Vice, Marchant claims to have met with Juan O Savin, the alias of a QAnon influencer who — stay with us here — is thought by some QAnon followers to be John F. Kennedy Jr. in disguise.
There is an inherent desire to simply dismiss these types of nefarious but often ultimately incompetent clowns as destined to fail, because they often do. But it’s worth being vigilant. Marchant himself outlined the stakes, per Vice: “I can’t stress enough how important the secretary of state offices are. I think they are the most important elections in our country in 2022. And why is that? We control the election system.”
Offices like secretary of state are not often talked about or highly sought after. They don’t receive lots of press. But they hold plenty of power. This group would rather operate in darkness and emerge in control. We must keep them in the daylight and out of power instead.