By SCOTT SONNER and CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY
RENO, Nevada (AP) — A former state lawmaker who has been repeating the false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump won the Republican nomination Tuesday for Nevada secretary of state, the office that oversees elections in the perennial presidential battleground.
In November, Jim Marchant will face Cisco Aguilar, a lawyer and former chair of the Nevada Athletic Commission who was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Term limits prevented Nevada’s current secretary of state, a Republican, from seeking reelection.
Since losing a 2020 congressional bid, Marchant has appeared at various events around the country with allies of Trump to cast doubt on the last election. That includes MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who has sought to prove voting machines were somehow manipulated.
There’s been no evidence of widespread fraud or conspiracy to steal the 2020 election, which Trump lost to President Joe Biden.
Marchant is one of several Republicans across the country running for secretary of state, seeking to oversee the next presidential election while denying the outcome of the last one. In February, he told a crowd gathered for a candidates forum that their vote “hasn’t counted for decades.”
His closest rival for the GOP nomination was businessman and former state lawmaker Jesse Haw, who has accused Democrats of changing voting rules to manipulate the system and called for voter ID requirements and new restrictions on mail ballots.
In a statement, Marchant called his victory a “historic night on the road for election integrity.” Aguilar’s campaign did not immediately respond to emailed requests and phone messages seeking comment.
Nevada is a pivotal state for Republicans as they look to win a majority in the U.S. Senate. Although Trump lost Nevada in the 2016 and 2020 elections, he remains a popular figure among Republicans in the state. The candidate he is supporting in the Senate race, former state attorney general Adam Laxalt, won the Republican nomination Tuesday and will try to unseat Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto.
In April 2021, Nevada’s Republican Party voted to censure the current secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, accusing her of failing to fully investigate allegations of fraud in the 2020 election. Cegavske has said repeatedly that she found no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Term limits bar her from seeking re-election.
An Associated Press investigation last year found that county election offices in Nevada had identified between 93 and 98 potential cases of voter fraud, representing less than 0.3% of Biden’s margin of victory in the state.
Along with holding events across the country, Marchant helped organize the “America First Secretary of State Coalition,” a group of candidates running to be their state’s top election official who have repeated Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election.
Marchant also has been working to persuade local officials to toss out voting equipment and instead require that all ballots be cast and counted by hand.
Hand-counting all ballots is not only unreliable, labor-intensive and time-consuming, but also unnecessary, according to election experts. Testing before elections and audits afterward are intended to ensure that votes are recorded accurately and that any problems are identified before election results are certified.
Nationally, nearly two dozen Republican candidates are running to be their state’s top election official while denying the result of the 2020 presidential election, according to States United Action, a nonpartisan advocacy organization tracking the candidates.
Among those are Kristina Karamo in Michigan and Kim Crockett in Minnesota, who are favorites to win their primaries in August, and Audrey Trujillo in New Mexico, who has advanced to the general election.
Last month, Georgia’s Jody Hice lost his bid to oust Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in that state’s GOP primary despite having Trump’s endorsement. Raffensperger drew Trump’s ire after he refused the former president’s request to “find” enough votes to overturn President Joe Biden’s win in Georgia.
The federal government’s leading security experts declared the 2020 presidential election the “most secure in American history,” while Trump’s attorney general at the time said there was no fraud that would have altered the results. There has been no evidence to suggest Trump was cheated out of a second term.
In another statewide race, a pair of Las Vegas lawyers were battling in the Republican primary for state attorney general. That race, featuring Tisha Black and Sigal Chattah, has focused more on personal attacks than concerns of voter fraud.
The winner will face Democratic incumbent Aaron Ford in November.
Cassidy reported from Atlanta.
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