The Macomb Daily

Election skeptics slow to get changes in GOP states

- By Tom Davies, Christina A. Cassidy and Mead Gruver

>> Republican­s in some heavily conservati­ve states won their campaigns for secretary of state last year after claiming they would make sweeping changes aimed at keeping fraud out of elections.

So far, their efforts to make good on their promises are mixed, in some cases because their rhetoric has bumped up against skepticism from members of their own party.

Voters in politicall­y pivotal swing states such as Arizona, Michigan and Nevada rejected candidates seeking to oversee elections who had echoed former President Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 presidenti­al election. But newly elected secretarie­s of state in Alabama, Indiana and Wyoming who had questioned the legitimacy of that election won easily in those Republican-dominated states.

They are now facing the task of backing up their campaign pledges in states where Republican­s have already set strict election laws.

In Indiana, Secretary of State Diego Morales has been relatively quiet. He has not been making the rounds at the Statehouse trying to persuade lawmakers to embrace the wide-ranging tightening of voting rules he promoted as a candidate.

After defeating the incumbent secretary of state for the Republican nomination last summer, Morales dialed back his descriptio­n of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidenti­al election as a “scam” and his calls for tighter voting laws. That push included cutting Indiana’s 28-day early voting period in half and requiring new voters to prove their U.S. citizenshi­p when registerin­g.

No bills for such steps were introduced for this year’s legislativ­e session. Morales, who was an aide to Mike Pence when the former vice president was governor, also did not seek any money in his budget request to lawmakers for creating an “election task force,” which he had discussed as a candidate, that would investigat­e voting “shenanigan­s” around the state.

A concept backed by Morales for requiring voters to include a copy of their driver’s license with a mail-in ballot applicatio­n is being sponsored by a Republican lawmaker, but he said he wasn’t working with Morales on the proposal.

Morales’ office has declined interview requests from The Associated Press since he took office Jan. 1. Kegan Prentice, the office’s legislativ­e director, said Morales was “currently focused on the ongoing transition.”

During remarks at an early January inaugural ceremony, Morales continued his campaign theme of promoting “election integrity” without giving specifics.

“My priority is to make Indiana a national model for election confidence and integrity,” he said.

Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston, also a Republican, said recently he had talked with Morales and told him he was “comfortabl­e” with the state’s election laws.

“I think our election laws are as good as any in the country,” Huston said.

Morales was among the otherwise unsuccessf­ul candidates associated with the America First Secretary of State Coalition, which called for largescale changes to elections with candidates aligned with Trump’s views. The group supported losing candidates in several battlegrou­nd states.

They claimed widespread fraud and manipulati­on of voting machines, but there has been no evidence of either as exhaustive reviews in states lost by Trump have not revealed wrongdoing. That hasn’t stopped Republican candidates, particular­ly in contested primaries, from parroting the false claims that have taken hold among the party’s supporters.

A large segment of Republican­s, 58%, still believe Biden’s 2020 victory was not legitimate, according to an October poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

While Alabama’s Wes Allen and Wyoming’s Chuck Gray were not on the America First coalition’s candidate list, they also raised doubts about the 2020 vote.

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