By Tim Reid
(Reuters) - Republicans who back former President Donald Trump's false claim the 2020 election was stolen were their party's nominees for secretary of state in battleground states where if elected they stood to play a decisive role in choosing a U.S. president.
Voting rights groups were focused on secretary of state races in Arizona, Nevada and Michigan, and said victory by these Republican candidates could have threatened both the integrity of the next presidential election and U.S. democracy itself:
MARK FINCHEM, ARIZONA
Finchem is a state legislator, has claimed membership in the far-right militia group the Oath Keepers, and has parroted false conspiracy theories propagated by the QAnon movement, including that leading politicians are part of a pedophile ring.
He was defeated by Democrat Adrian Fontes, Edison Research predicted late on Friday.
Finchem supported the "Stop the Steal" movement that falsely claimed the 2020 election was fraudulent and attended Trump's rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, that preceded the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Finchem says he did not go from Trump's rally to the Capitol that day.
Finchem has said he would not have certified Biden's 2020 victory in Arizona. He supported an audit of Arizona's election results and co-sponsored a bill that would give the state's Republican-controlled legislature the power to overturn election results. After the 2020 election, he also called for the arrest of the state's Democratic secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, who is running for governor in this election.
KRISTINA KARAMO, MICHIGAN
Edison Research projected that voters have re-elected Democrat Jocelyn Benson over Karamo.
Karamo was a little-known political figure in Michigan but soared to prominence - and onto Trump's radar - when she claimed in 2020 that she had witnessed fraud at Detroit's absentee counting board as a poll observer.
A community college professor who opposes the teaching of evolution in schools, Karamo testified before the state legislature that she had seen sacks of votes being mysteriously dropped off in the middle of the night, and that voting machines flipped votes to Biden. No evidence has ever emerged supporting those claims.
JIM MARCHANT, NEVADA
A former state assemblyman, Marchant opposed certification of Biden's win in Nevada. He was a member of Nevada's bogus alternative slate of presidential electors that sought to overturn Biden's victory in the state.
Democrat Cisco Aguilar defeated him to win the secretary of state race, Edison Research projected late on Saturday.
Marchant ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020 but lost. He unsuccessfully sued to have that result overturned, basing his case on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.
Marchant is a member of the America First Secretary of State Coalition, a group supporting a slate of candidates supporting Trump's baseless claims about the 2020 election.
In Nevada, the secretary of state does not have the power to certify results but can set and enforce election rules.
(Reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Ross Colvin, Howard Goller, Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis)