2022 Election Post-Mortem Will Focus on Secretary of State Races and The Role of State and Local Election Officials in Assuring Free and Fair Elections
November 16, 2022
Meryl Justin Chertoff Adjunct Professor of Law and Executive Director, Georgetown Project on State and Local Government Policy and Law
SALPAL, a project of Georgetown University Law Center, and the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service will host a panel discussion “What the 2022 Midterms Mean for 2024″ featuring former Secretaries of State Kathryn Boockvar of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Trey Grayson of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Sam Feist, Washington Bureau Chief and Senior Vice President, CNN, also a Board Member for Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service will introduce the panel which will be moderated by Meryl Justin Chertoff, Adjunct Professor of Law and Executive Director, Georgetown Project on State and Local Government Policy and Law. The event will take place Thursday, Nov 17, from 4 to 5PM ET
A livestream link is available here.
Until 2020, the work of Secretaries of State usually was usually behind the scenes, but that year, the COVID-19 pandemic and shifts in voting patterns meant the volume of mail-in and absentee ballots increased nationwide. State legislatures, courts and election officials struggled to adapt existing mechanisms and authorities to an era of quarantine and social distancing. Election deniers seized on drop-off boxes, mail-in voting and other innovations meant to preserve or enhance ballot access to craft a narrative that the 2020 presidential election was being “stolen” from Donald Trump. Disinformation was used to whip up outrage. Intimidation and threats of violence were directed against election officials from poll workers at the precinct level to state level officials of both parties—Brad Raffensberger of Georgia received the most media attention, but targets also included Arizona Secretary of State (and now Governor-elect) Katie Hobbs, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, and Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathryn Boockvar, who will be one of our panelists.
Then, in the months after January 6, 2021 and through the midterms, a band of election deniers sought election as Secretary of State The 2022 race saw for the first time a Trump-endorsed group, the America First Secretary of State Coalition. It includes Jim Marchant of Nevada, Kristina Karamo of Michigan and Mark Finchem of Arizona, along with other office seekers. Those three, and close to a dozen others, lost their races but three other candidates in Alabama, Indiana and Wyoming won theirs.
Grayson observes that voters’ overall rejection of these candidates last week, often by margins that exceeded contests at the top of the ticket, show that they were paying attention to these downballot races where so-called roll-off (failure to make selection for every office) most often occurs.
While in 35 states, secretary of state is an elected position, it is a governor-appointed position in most other states, including Florida, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia, meaning that the Governors’ views on election integrity will also matter in 2024. In Pennsylvania this year, for example, defeated Republican candidate Doug Mastriano vowed that if elected he would require all voters to reregister, and implied that he would select as his Secretary of State an election denier. So the stakes are high.
Secretaries of State matter not only as the nation votes. Besides their role in supervising county officials and certifying election results, Secretaries of State have other key responsibilities including
- election database security
- voting machines and paper ballots
- recount procedures
- coordination with local and county officials on maintaining the integrity of voter registration
Now that many Secretary of State races have been decided, other races in 2023 will also matter. In three additional states–Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi–Secretaries of State will be on the ballot next year. In many states, local and county officials who supervise elections will be on the ballot. As Boockvar sees it, those positions are as important, since these are the people with on-the-ground authority to police and regulate registration, local ballots and voting day procedures. State AG state legislative races will also matter as the Supreme Court takes up the Independent State Legislature Theory in December in Moore v. Harper, a case which could strip state supreme courts of the ability to review the state rules that apply to Congressional redistricting and presidential elections, leaving only state legislatures, perhaps subject to Governor veto, and federal courts, in decisive roles.