Secretary of state races emerge as America's newest political flashpoint

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fairly difficult
Republicans and Democrats are gearing up for expensive battles to influence a crop of contests next year that often go unnoticed: secretary of state races.
(CNN)

Former President Donald Trump's persistent and fruitless efforts to overturn the 2020 election results -- along with a bevy of new state laws that erect fresh barriers to voting -- have put a spotlight on these posts. Outside groups plan to spend millions to sway the outcomes, and multiple candidates are lining up to become election chiefs in the battleground states that will decide the presidency in 2024.

In all, 26 positions for secretary of state are on the ballot next year, 14 of which are held by Republicans and 12 by Democrats.

One Democratic group focused on these races, iVote, has raised $3 million and hopes to collect a total of $15 million to shape contests in several key battleground states, said Ellen Kurz, the group's president. Its top targets: Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Georgia and Minnesota, all of which backed President Joe Biden in 2020. Arizona, Michigan and Minnesota currently have Democratic election chiefs. Republicans control those offices in Georgia and Nevada.

Another organization, the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, also has set a $15 million budget for the two-year-cycle -- a 10-fold increase over what it spent in the 2018 cycle, the last time the top election officials in these states were on the ballot, officials said.

"The stakes are really high," said Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who chairs the Democratic secretaries of state group. "We believe democracy will be on the ballot in 2022."

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, who runs the Republican Secretaries of State Committee, declined to disclose a budget or the group's targets: "You never telegraph a punch."

But he noted that the Republican State Leadership Committee, the parent organization funding the GOP secretaries of state group, and its affiliated policy arm raised $6.5 million during the second quarter of this year -- a record for the group at this point in the election cycle.

Long-brewing battle

The partisan fights over…
Fredreka Schouten, CNN
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