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Several election deniers have lost secretary of state races

ELISSA NADWORNY, HOST:

Something we heard over and over leading up to the midterm elections was that democracy was on the ballot. So we want to take a few minutes now to focus on how Americans voted when it comes to the positions that oversee the voting process. We're talking about secretary of state races across the nation. For an update on that, we are joined now by NPR's Miles Parks, who covers voting. Hey, Miles.

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Hi, Elissa.

NADWORNY: So let's start with the big picture. We heard a lot about election deniers running this cycle. How did they do?

PARKS: So there's kind of two ways you can look at it. On one hand, it's a bit worrying. We did see election deniers win in traditional Republican strongholds. Places like Alabama, Wyoming, Indiana, election deniers will be secretary of state going forward. But on the other hand, when you look at competitive states, voters seem to have been pretty clear in defeating these candidates. They lost decisively in Minnesota, in New Mexico and Michigan. We're still watching to see what happens in Arizona and Nevada as they continue to count votes that votes there. But Democrats seem optimistic there as well.

NADWORNY: Michigan was on your races-to-watch list heading into Tuesday. Tell us about that race.

PARKS: Yeah. In a lot of ways, the incumbent secretary of state there, Democrat Jocelyn Benson, has kind of embodied the role of the election worker in the U.S. over the last couple years. She was one of the loudest defenders of the voting system in 2020. And because of that, former President Trump really targeted her. And she saw a lot of death threats. She saw armed protesters after that election actually come to her house. She was running this cycle for reelection against a far-right candidate, Kristina Karamo, who rose to prominence by pushing a lot of these election fraud claims in Detroit. And Benson won by about 14 points in a very competitive state, which she told me today she hopes is a warning sign to candidates going forward who want to push misinformation around elections.

JOCELYN BENSON: Those folks were, by and large, roundly rejected. And because of that, I think and I hope with that accountability at the ballot box, voters have said, we don't want you to lie to us.

PARKS: It is worth noting that her opponent, Karamo, has yet to concede in this race, and actually posted a statement today alleging some sort of issues with the voting process.

NADWORNY: What about the two races in Arizona and Nevada that haven't been called yet? What can you tell us about those?

PARKS: So in both races, Democrats are facing pretty extreme elections - nine candidates on the right, candidates who say the entire elections process is rigged. They want to take away early voting. They want to change how votes are counted, things like that. In these states, at this point, the races do seem to be closer than they were in Michigan, as ballots are still being counted. And these are going to be races we are also going to be watching really closely for how these candidates behave in the time after the election. For instance, Mark Finchem, the Republican candidate in Arizona, has already alluded to some sort of conspiracy involving his opponent, Democrat Adrian Fontes. I actually talked to Fontes as before the election about just this possibility.

ADRIAN FONTES: It's going to be a normal process. The only thing that might be unusual is that you're going to get a couple of blowhards screaming for attention. And what they scream for attention for is irrelevant in my mind. You know, just even paying attention to the shenanigans and the nonsense is giving them too much credit.

PARKS: So Fontes says don't pay attention to these people, but we kind of have to when it comes to a concession because we know how important a concession is when it comes to just taking down the temperature in a time as votes are counted and then the elections are certified.

NADWORNY: It does feel like the temperature is a bit lower this election, right?

PARKS: It does. It's good news. Election officials are cautiously optimistic as I talk to them. They are kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop, though. That's what one election official put it to me. The election certification process is going to happen in the next couple of weeks, so they're still on guard.

NADWORNY: Right. NPR's Miles Parks. Thank you.

PARKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.