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Why the latest conspiracy theories from Nevada’s Jim Marchant matter

The more GOP secretary of state nominees push utterly bonkers conspiracy theories, the more dangerous their 2022 candidacies become.


As unhinged conspiracy theorists go, Jim Marchant is unreserved when pushing ridiculous ideas. The Nevada Republican, naturally, believes Donald Trump won the Silver State, actual election results notwithstanding. But there’s no reason to stop there: Marchant, who’s been accused of having QAnon ties, has also told Nevadans, “Your vote hasn’t counted for decades. You haven’t elected anybody. The people that are in office have been selected.”

It now appears his interests extend beyond Nevada: Marchant has begun insisting that prominent Democratic lawmakers — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, et al. — also shouldn’t be seen as having won legitimate elections, despite their landslide victories.

It’s certainly tempting not to care. Marchant is, after all, a former state legislator who lost his re-election bid after serving just one term, before launching a failed congressional campaign. His utterly bonkers ideas might strike many as irrelevant.

But it’s not that simple. As Dana Milbank noted in an important Washington Post column:

The (Republican) secretary of state, who vigorously defends the integrity of the 2020 election, is term-limited, and the GOP nominee to replace her, Jim Marchant, leads a national group of election deniers running for office. Marchant is on record saying that if he and his fellow candidates are elected, “we’re going to fix the whole country, and President Trump is going to be president again.”

The reference to Marchant’s cohorts was of particular interest. It was earlier this year when the Nevadan had a notable chat with Steve Bannon, boasting that there’s a “coalition” of GOP secretary of state candidates who are united in their commitment to an “America First” agenda.

A few weeks ago, standing alongside Donald Trump at a rally, Marchant not only blamed Trump’s (and his own) defeat on fraud that didn’t happen in reality, the Nevadan again referenced the “coalition of secretary of state candidates,” who apparently intend to “fix the whole country.”

In other words, the GOP nominee for secretary of state in Nevada is pushing ridiculous-even-by-2022-standards conspiracy theories, but he might nevertheless be elected to oversee his state’s system of elections — at which point he intends to “fix” things that aren’t broken.

His likeminded allies, including Arizona’s Mark Finchem and Michigan’s Kristina Karamo, have similar ambitions.

I’m occasionally reminded of something Trey Grayson, Kentucky’s former Republican secretary of state, said several months ago. “There’s a lot of crazy going around,” Grayson told NPR. “You have people running for these offices where the most important duty is counting the votes and accepting the results even if you don’t like the outcome, and these folks don’t appear to be well-positioned to do that.”

Circling back to our earlier coverage, I remain mindful of the fact that for many voters, secretary of state — at the state level, not the cabinet secretary who leads the U.S. State Department — is probably a fairly obscure office. These officials tend to work behind the scenes on unglamorous tasks such as election administration, and few reach the household-name level.

But in the wake of Jan. 6, the Republican Party’s brazen lies and conspiracy theories, and Donald Trump’s fixation on installing election-denying allies in key positions, secretaries of state — and this year’s campaigns to elect secretaries of state — have taken on extraordinary importance.

In practical terms, we’re talking about officials who could take radical and undemocratic steps before Election Day — Marchant has said he intends to eliminate early voting, voting by mail, and all electronic voting machines — and then make matters worse after Election Day by refusing to certify election results they don’t like, including vote tallies in the 2024 presidential election.

When observers warn that the future of our democracy will be shaped in large part by this year’s elections, it’s best not to see those claims as hyperbolic.