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The Story of Election Denial in America

What we're tracking

States United Action is tracking Election Deniers running for major statewide offices that control, oversee, or are tasked with defending elections. While we often think about elections as big national events, they’re run by the states. And in most states, the Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State play a central role in making sure elections are free, fair, and secure. 

We also know that election denial is not limited to just statewide officials and elections. It’s dangerous, even when an official’s election powers aren’t as direct. So we’re also tracking Election Deniers running for President, and looking holistically at the environment around elections in each state at all levels of government and along the campaign trail.

Our tracking tool helps define the democracy landscape, so that we can understand and counter dangerous efforts to change the rules of how elections are run and change the referees (the people who oversee our elections). It’s all part of the anti-democracy playbook, which Election Deniers and their allies use so they can make it easier to change election results if voters don’t choose their preferred candidate. 

Slide to the right to learn more about what makes an Election Denier, plus our key takeaways.

Explore our data

How We Define Election Deniers

To qualify as an Election Denier, a candidate or sitting official must meet one or more of the criteria below. An Election Denier is someone who has:

  • Falsely claimed former President Trump won the 2020 presidential election instead of the legitimate winner, President Biden.

  • Spread lies or promoted conspiracies about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election or subsequent election cycles in public, including in social media, press statements, or comments to the press.

  • Refused to certify, or called on or pressured election officials to refuse to certify, the 2020 presidential election results or a race in subsequent elections based on meritless claims about election fraud, voter fraud, misinformation, or lies.

  • Taken action to undermine the integrity of the 2020 presidential election or subsequent election cycles, including:

    • Filing or supporting litigation seeking to overturn the results based on conspiracies or baseless legal theories.

    • Filing or supporting litigation that was sanctioned for being malicious or without merit in the aftermath of an election.

    • Promoting or participating in a Stop the Steal–sponsored or branded event or rally during or following the 2020 election.

    • Calling for a “forensic audit” of the 2020 presidential election or a race in subsequent elections after the results were certified, were officially audited, or stood up to multiple legal challenges.

  • Refused to concede a race, or publicly supported a candidate’s refusal to concede a race, after the results were officially audited or stood up to multiple legal challenges.

Election-related conspiracies include a host of debunked claims and myths that gained momentum during the 2020 election cycle. Actions to promote conspiracies include, but are not limited to, sharing or liking videos by known election disinformation sources, such as “2000 Mules.” Actions to promote conspiracies also include, but are not limited to, knowingly amplifying baseless claims that voting machines were tampered with or were connected to the Internet, which allowed for tampering with vote totals; baseless claims that voting machines were designed to fail on Election Day; baseless claims that Dominion Voting Systems’s machines rigged the election; or proven false claims about “stolen elections” or activities that would have changed the outcome of a legitimate election.

Since 2021, a handful of candidates have run for reelection or in multiple statewide races. Our tracking measures candidacies - or how many times voters have been presented with an Election Denier candidate. As a result, a very small number of individual Election Deniers are counted multiple times.

Tracking data is being updated regularly as candidates declare, and as new evidence of election denial becomes public.

Key Takeaways

  1. 1

    Election Deniers are back for the 2024 election. 22 Election Deniers in 9 states have already announced campaigns for statewide positions that oversee elections. We’ll track and expose them throughout the campaign—because any Election Denier in office is a direct threat to the will of the people. 

  2. 2

    Since taking off in 2020, the latest version of the Election Denier movement has touched every state in the country. 47 states have had an Election Denier run for or hold a statewide office with election powers. And 19 states have Election Deniers currently holding office, using their powers to weaken free and fair elections. In other states, pro-democracy leaders are safeguarding elections and protecting election workers against harassment and threats.

  3. 3

    Democracy is back on the ballot and front and center in the Presidential race. 1 Election Deniers are in the race, and the future of free and fair elections will once again be a campaign issue.

A brief history

Although it’s been present throughout American history, election denial as we understand it today took hold in 2020, before votes were even cast. It later helped inspire the attack on the Capitol on January 6, interrupting the peaceful transfer of power. And it has since blossomed into an entire Election Denier movement, controlling a substantial faction of one of our nation’s major parties.

Navigate through the timeline to explore how this era of election denial started, and how it’s continued to shapeshift.

Timeline of Election Denial-Related Events

Scroll left and right to explore

President Trump at rally with a background of supporters


During his campaign, Donald Trump spread lies about election fraud, refused to commit to accepting the results, and even floated the idea of delaying the election. He also started laying the groundwork for a strategy to declare victory regardless of the election outcome.

Trump campaign officials at a press conference


After he lost the election, Trump lied repeatedly about the counting process, ginning up accusations of fraud. He filed over five dozen baseless lawsuits to overturn the results. He and his associates pressured state officials to change the outcome. And in some states that Trump lost, groups of pro-Trump Republicans posed as official presidential electors—even creating and submitting counterfeit electoral certificates.

Confrontation between Trump supporters and the Capitol Police

JAN. 6, 2021: THE ATTACK

Inspired by Trump’s lies about a rigged election and violent rhetoric, a mob forcibly stormed the Capitol, delaying the congressional vote to certify the election and sending Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress fleeing for their safety. The mob injured more than 140 police officers. And the harm is still being felt. Five officers who were at the Capitol died in the days after the attack. And many law enforcement officers required — and in some cases, still require — mental health care following the day’s traumatic events.

Vice President Pence and Speaker of the House Pelosi standing during the election certification process


After the attack ended and law enforcement officers secured the Capitol, Congress resumed the electoral count. Objections to the election results from two states, Arizona and Pennsylvania, ultimately advanced to votes. In all, 147 Republicans—eight senators and 139 members of the House—voted against certifying the valid results from one or both states. Biden’s election was certified in the early hours of Jan. 7, but the objections show the Election Denier movement had taken hold in Congress.

Woman speaking at a campaign event


More than 141 Election Deniers entered races across the country for the statewide offices that oversee elections. Voters stepped up to defend democracy: Only five non-incumbent Election Deniers vying for statewide roles with election oversight power won in the midterms. In the 2020 battleground states, Election Deniers lost in a clean sweep. States United research shows that in races for Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State, Election Denier candidates received 2.3 to 3.7 percentage points less of the vote than expected, compared with similar candidates in similar races.

The house of representatives in session


Despite their dismal record in 2022 and 2023, Election Deniers still control at least one statewide office that oversees voting in about one third of the states. And election denier candidates who lost have found other platforms or ways to continue spreading lies. As the 2024 election nears, it’s clear that democracy will once again be on the ballot—from the top of the ticket all the way to the bottom.

The election denier landscape

Election Deniers already hold office in many states. And they’re using their powers to weaken elections—chipping away at nonpartisan election administration, abandoning programs to strengthen election security, and trying to deny voters a fair voice in government.

And as we look to the next election cycle, many more Election Deniers are entering races – both in the states and in the presidential election. Election denial remains a dangerous movement, dedicated to eroding trust in our elections. So we’re dedicated to tracking and exposing it.

Our comprehensive tracker tracks Election Deniers who hold power over elections, as well as those who are seeking that power in upcoming elections.

Explore our data

Tap a state to see a preview.

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All positions

0 Election deniers are currently in office, across 0 states

States are colored by number of Election Denying officials in statewide positions:


0 Election deniers are running for office in 2024, across 0 states

States are colored by number of Election Denying officials running for statewide positions:


States with a striped pattern have an active race:


How states run elections

We may think about elections as big national events, but elections are run by the states. That means state officials—usually the Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State—are responsible for making sure elections are free, fair, and secure. They’re the guardians of our democracy.

Learn more about how elections work and the roles and responsibilities of our statewide elected officials.

The Roles and Responsibilities of Elected Officials in our Elections

State elected officials set election rules, administer elections, count votes, and protect election results.


As the chief executive of a state, the Governor has the power to propose, revise, and advance election-related policies and procedures across the state. Governors have significant responsibilities and influence with respect to election administration and voting procedures. For example, Governors can:

  • Sign or veto state legislation and budgets that shape state election procedures and establish the financial resources available across the state for administering elections.

  • Issue executive orders to improve intergovernmental coordination on election issues, create commissions to study and offer recommendations on election issues, and address emergency situations affecting elections.

  • Appoint state officials who play key roles in election administration and oversight.

  • Play a critical role in the tabulation of Electoral College votes in Congress by issuing certificates of ascertainment for the candidate who wins the state’s presidential election race.

Examples of pro-democracy actions a Governor can take:
  • Sign legislation that expands or preserves the freedom to vote.

  • Veto legislation that undermines the right to vote or facilitates election subversion. 

  • Propose and approve budgets that invest in election infrastructure, administration, and protection.

Examples of anti-democracy actions a Governor can take:
  • Veto state budgets that fund state election administration or enforcement.

  • Sign legislation that removes funding for election officials or restricts voters’ access to the ballot box. 

  • Initiate unfair redistricting maps that deprive communities of equal democratic representation.

Attorney General

A state’s Attorney General is responsible for enforcing state law, protecting the rights of citizens, and seeking justice for the people of the state. When it comes to elections, for example, Attorneys General can:

  • Represent the people in election and voting-rights lawsuits that challenge or seek to enforce state election laws and procedures.

  • Prosecute crimes related to voter suppression or other election misconduct.

  • Guide state and local law enforcement agencies on rules governing election-related law enforcement activity.

  • Review ballot initiative language to make sure voters receive accurate, nonpartisan information.

Examples of pro-democracy actions a state Attorney General can take:
  • Defend the state’s official election results and pro-democracy election procedures against legal challenges.

  • Protect the privacy of voters’ personal information and defend voters from intimidation.

  • Investigate and prosecute illegal election interference.

Examples of anti-democracy actions a state Attorney General can take:
  • Pursue baseless lawsuits seeking to invalidate election results. 

  • Choose not to defend pro-democracy election laws and policies from legal challenge. 

  • Refuse to work in good faith with other state officials to approve election guidance materials and to enforce pro-democracy voting procedures.

Secretary of State

In many states, the Secretary of State – or Secretary of the Commonwealth – serves as the state’s chief election officer, overseeing all aspects of elections to make sure they follow the law and safeguarding the integrity of the voting process. Secretaries of State can:

  • Administer and oversee voting, including voting system testing and certification, voter registration, and in-person and mail-in voting procedures.

  • Develop and distribute voter education materials.

  • Provide guidance and support to local election officials.

  • Play a central role in certification of election results.

Examples of pro-democracy actions a Secretary of State can take:
  • Robustly implement state election laws to ensure that voters have voting access and that election results are accurate and secure.

  • Perform rigorous, methodologically sound election reviews and professional audits. 

  • Certify election results that reflect the official winners of an election.

Examples of anti-democracy actions a Secretary of State can take:
  • Engage in unprofessional or partisan reviews of election results.

  • Advocate for legislation that adds barriers to voter access and voting options.

  • Choose not to issue election guidance, or issue guidance that does not comply with applicable laws on voter access.

Other Offices

In most states, an elected Secretary of State is the top election official. But in our decentralized system, each state makes its own rules, and some states invest election oversight power in other offices. Here are some examples.

  • In Alaska and Utah, the Lieutenant Governor is the top election official.

  • In six states, the Governor appoints the chief election official—sometimes with the title of Secretary of State and sometimes with another title.

  • In four states, the top election official is the Secretary of State, but that person is appointed by the legislature.

  • In six states and Washington, D.C., the top election official is appointed by a state elections board or commission.

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures