Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election brought the US to the brink of a democratic crisis. Refusing to concede his loss to Joe Biden, he attempted to use every lever available to try and throw out the results of the election, pressuring state lawmakers, Congress and the courts to declare him the winner.
Those efforts didn’t succeed. But Trump nonetheless created a new poison that seeped deep in the Republican party – a belief that the results of US elections cannot be trusted. The belief quickly became Republican orthodoxy: it was embraced by Republican officeholders across the country as well as local activists who began to bombard and harass local election officials, forcing many of them to retire. The January 6 attack on the US Capitol – in which thousands stormed the building, and five people died as a result – was the starkest reminder of the potential violent consequences of this rhetoric.
In 2022, several Republicans who embraced election denialism lost their races to be the top election official in their state. But at the same time, many Republicans who unabashedly embraced the idea and aided Trump’s efforts to overturn the election were re-elected and, in some cases, elevated to higher office.
Here’s a look at how some of those who tried to overturn the 2020 election have since been promoted into positions of power:
Members of Congress
McCarthy was one of 147 House Republicans who voted to reject Biden’s election victory in January 2021. Then the House minority leader, McCarthy privately criticized Trump in the wake of the January 6 insurrection, but quickly backed off from calling for his resignation because of fears of retribution from the Republican party.
When Republicans took control of the House in the 2022 midterms, McCarthy became the presumed next speaker of the House. The only thing standing in his way was a group of 18 other election deniers who repeatedly cast their ballots against him, forcing a total of 15 votes before McCarthy was able to secure the total he needed to become speaker.
Scalise was the highest-ranking Republican to sign onto a US supreme court amicus brief trying to get electoral votes from key swing states rejected. He was also one of the 147 Republicans to vote against certifying the 2020 election results.
In November, he was easily re-elected to a ninth term to represent his Louisiana district in Congress. He was unanimously elected House majority leader last year, making him the No 2 ranking Republican in the US House.
Perry has served as a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania since 2013. He is the chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and is a staunch supporter of Trump. He played an instrumental role in Trump’s attempt to overturn the election and to send a slate of fake electors to Washington, a plot that’s factored into federal investigations after the January 6 insurrection. Perry introduced Trump to Jeffrey Clark, who wrote a draft of a letter to officials in six states suggesting they select alternative electors. The FBI seized Perry’s cellphone last year as part of a criminal investigation into the fake elector scheme.
Despite the active investigation, Perry was re-elected to Congress in November with 54% of the vote and was appointed to the US House oversight committee, the chamber’s primary investigative committee.
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Hoffman signed onto a fake slate of electors that falsely claimed Donald Trump won Arizona in 2020 and sent a letter to Mike Pence on 5 January 2021, asking the then vice-president to delay certifying the state’s election results. He previously worked for Turning Point USA, a group with strong ties to the state GOP, and was permanently suspended from Twitter over his firm’s work for Turning Point.
He first won office in the Arizona house of representatives in 2020, moving to the upper chamber in 2022. He now serves as the chairman of Arizona’s Freedom Caucus, a far-right group of lawmakers that has emerged as a counterweight to the Democratic governor, Katie Hobbs.
As a senator, Hoffman chairs two prominent committees: the government committee, where bills typically relate to how the government itself is run, and a newly created committee on director nominations, which assesses Hobbs’ selections for agency leaders. Already, the committee voted down one of Hobbs’ nominees after intense, pointed questioning from Hoffman, though the full senate still must vote on the appointment.
Among the bills Hoffman has proposed is one that would break up Arizona’s largest county, Maricopa, into four smaller counties, three of which would be Republican-leaning. The plan, which has been shot down multiple times before, found renewed interest from the GOP after the county swung toward Democrats in 2020.
Kern lost his election in 2020, but returned to the Arizona legislature in 2022, winning a seat as a state senator. His win came after he attended the Stop the Steal rally on January 6, 2021, at the US Capitol, after he signed on to a slate of fake electors and volunteered at the so-called audit, a review of ballots after the 2020 election.
He continually insists Trump won in 2020. And Kern’s appearance at the audit raised eyebrows because Kern himself was on the ballot, though the election review only looked at the presidential and US Senate races. He was also one of the state lawmakers who joined a lawsuit against Pence in the lead-up to the electoral college vote.
During Hobbs’ first State of the State address in January, Kern turned his back, a show of disagreement and disrespect to the incoming executive. He has said the 2022 election results should not have been certified and indicated he supports a “revote” of the election.
A first-time representative, Liz Harris gained prominence in Arizona Republican political circles by questioning election results and leading an unsanctioned canvass of voters after the 2020 election.
Harris’s canvass came after a warning from the US Department of Justice regarding the official Arizona “audit”. The department said a canvass could intimidate voters. Harris’s canvass was subsequently dismantled by elections experts, who found a lack of evidence and some outright false assertions.
She sits on the house’s election committee. Since her election, which was confirmed via a state-mandated recount, Harris has said she wouldn’t vote for anything unless there was a revote of the 2022 election, and she has made good on her promise.
She has continued to call for a redo of the 2022 election. She recently invited a woman to an elections hearing who shared wild, unproven allegations of widespread fraud by various elected officials, resulting in condemnation from her own party and an ethics complaint from a Democratic lawmaker.
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Paxton was one of Trump’s key allies after the 2020 race. He led a lawsuit at the US supreme court to try and get the electoral college votes of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia and Michigan thrown out as part of an effort to keep Trump in power. He was easily re-elected to a third term in November.
During his time in office, Paxton has made prosecuting election fraud a priority, but his office has turned up few cases (voter fraud is exceedingly rare in the United States). After a rebuke from Texas’s highest court, he is seeking expanded authority from the legislature to prosecute people for election crimes.
Georgia state senator turned lieutenant governor Burt Jones aided in amplifying false claims of mass election fraud in Georgia following Biden’s win in the state. Jones denied the validity of election results in 2020 and served as one of 16 fake electors from the state. Jones’s actions as a false elector led to his inclusion in ongoing investigations by both the Department of Justice and local Fulton county prosecutor Fani Willis.
In 2023 Jones assumed office as the newly elected lieutenant governor of Georgia following a campaign filled with attempts to downplay his role in the 2020 elector scheme and distance himself from Trump. As lieutenant governor, Jones holds power over the state’s senate. Jones maintains a prominent platform that he uses to steer clear of election debates, instead focusing on legislation ranging from public safety to economic development.
Spindell served as one of 10 fake electors in Wisconsin, a key battleground state. He has suggested there was something amiss in the state’s 2020 election, even though there is no evidence of that.
In 2021, Republicans reappointed Spindell to a second term on the Wisconsin elections commission, the six-member body that oversees elections in the state. He has since bragged about lower turnout among Black voters in Milwaukee, prompting Democrats to call for his removal from the body.
Chuck Gray has called the 2020 election fraudulent and campaigned on his concerns about the integrity of the state’s elections. He said he wants to ban ballot drop boxes, transition to all-paper ballots and clear the office of employees who do not agree with his vision.
The Republican lawmaker who co-chairs the panel that deals with state election law put forward a motion to remove election functions from the secretary of state’s office and instead give them to a separate operating agency. But the effort didn’t gain widespread support.
In the wake of the 2020 presidential election, Allen, then an Alabama state representative, supported a lawsuit brought by Texas that tried to sue four other states for alleged election “irregularities” responsible for Trump’s defeat. The suit presented no evidence, and was thrown out by the US supreme court.
Campaigning to become Alabama’s secretary of state, Allen promised that he would restrict access to the ballot box by banning mail-in voting, reining back early voting and imposing strict voter ID requirements. As one of his first acts since taking office in January, he removed Alabama from a data-sharing scheme known as the Electronic Registration Information Center (Eric). Eric has become the target of rightwing conspiracy theories that claim it is a leftwing plot to rig elections. In fact, more than two dozen states participate in the network, many of them Republican-controlled, as a way of ensuring the accuracy of voter rolls.
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State party officials
A former college professor, Kristina Karamo gained national prominence in 2020 after claiming she had witnessed fraud while observing Michigan’s recount of absentee ballots.
Karamo drew the support of Trump in her unsuccessful bid for Michigan secretary of state. She subsequently sued the state over its election processes, which would have targeted thousands of voters. A judge quickly rejected the suit, writing that Karamo and other plaintiffs had “raised a false flag of election law violations and corruption”.
In February, the Michigan Republican party chose Karamo as party chair over Matthew DePerno – a conservative lawyer who also promoted false claims of election fraud during the 2020 presidential election. In light of her win, Karamo wrote on Facebook that she would “stop the Democratic party’s totalitarian agenda in Michigan”.
Karamo has yet to concede her 2022 run for secretary of state.
A former state lawmaker, Moon openly questioned Biden’s victory in the 2020 race, with no evidence of wrongdoing. “No, I think there was a big problem when we noticed at 11 o’clock at night all of the battleground states decided to go to bed and then they were going to start back up at 8, 9 or 10 in the morning,” she said in 2022, according to the Idaho Capital Sun. “In my lifetime, I had never seen that happen nor had most Americans who stay up that late to watch for the results.”
Moon also falsely claimed Canadians were coming over the border to vote in Idaho’s elections and supported a bill that would have imposed new voting restrictions in the state. She lost a bid to be Idaho’s top election official last year, but was then elected chair of the state Republican party.
Brown, a construction contractor who has served as a county commissioner, ran unsuccessfully for Kansas secretary of state in the GOP primary. His campaign was centered on Trump’s baseless claim that voter fraud swung the 2020 election and unfounded doubts about election security. He vowed to ban ballot drop boxes and to use his office to prosecute voting crimes. He attempted to blame then secretary of state Scott Schwab for failures in his role as election administrator. In response to Schwab’s claims that elections run smoothly in Kansas, Brown asked: “Because he said so, or because he can prove it?”
In February, Brown was elected Kansas Republican party chair at the party’s convention. Brown defeated longtime state GOP leader Helen Van Etten, who was backed by most of the top Republican elected officials in the state.
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