There was a time when secretary of state was a relatively obscure position. At the state level -- not to be confused with the official who leads the U.S. State Department -- these officials are largely focused on administrative and bureaucratic responsibilities, which in turn has traditionally kept their names from front pages.
That is no longer the case. In the wake of Donald Trump's 2020 defeat, far-right Republicans are running for secretary of state offices across much of the country -- and they're not being especially shy about their eagerness to politicize their roles. Politico recently reported:
Republicans who sought to undercut or overturn President Joe Biden's election win are launching campaigns to become their states' top election officials next year, alarming local officeholders and opponents who are warning about pro-Trump, "ends justify the means" candidates taking big roles in running the vote.... The campaigns set up the possibility that politicians who have taken steps to undermine faith in the American democratic system could soon be the ones running it.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), for example, has become a Trump target for not being corrupt in 2020, so he's facing a primary challenge from Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), one of Congress' most far-right members who's spent recent months rejecting the legitimacy of his state's election results.
The problem is not limited to Georgia. In Arizona, a Republican secretary of state is promising voters that if he oversees state elections, he'll "make sure that Arizona is the Red State it REALLY is!" Election observers have similar concerns about GOP candidates running for secretary of state in Nevada and Michigan.
Meanwhile, some Republican legislators are also targeting secretaries of state who are still in office. The New York Times reported:
The Republican-controlled State Legislature in Arizona voted Thursday to revoke the Democratic secretary of state's legal authority in election-related lawsuits, handing that power instead to the Republican attorney general.
The article added that the Arizona measure approved last week shifted exclusive control over election lawsuits from Katie Hobbs (D) to the Republican attorney general, "but only through Jan. 2, 2023 — when the winners of the next elections for both offices would be about to take power. The aim is to ensure that the authority given to [state Attorney General Mark Brnovich] would not transfer to any Democrat who won the next race for attorney general."
A Washington Post analysis added, "Basically, Arizona Republicans are moving to temporarily transfer this authority from a Democrat to a Republican for one election cycle only (at which point they could seemingly decide, depending upon who controls each office, who should be in charge of this)."
Republican voter-suppression measures have received plenty of attention in recent months, and for good reason: GOP governors and legislators have launched an aggressive campaign to make it harder for Americans in the states to cast ballots.
But to focus exclusively on voter-suppression measures is to miss the scope and scale of Republican efforts to "fix" democracy in their favor.