Arizona Republican secretary of state nominee Mark Finchem and Nevada Republican secretary of state nominee Jim Marchant.
CNN  — 

New polling conducted by CNN shows election deniers in Arizona and Nevada running strong in their bids to be the top election officials in their respective states, a concerning development as the country begins to prepare for the next presidential election.

In Arizona, Republican Mark Finchem takes 49% among likely voters to 45% for Democrat Adrian Fontes in the secretary of state race. In Nevada’s secretary of state contest, Republican Jim Marchant is at 46% among likely voters, while Democrat Cisco Aguilar takes 43%. Both results are within the margin of error, meaning there is not a clear leader in either race.

Finchem and Marchant have made very clear that they believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump – despite the fact that no evidence exists to back up that claim.

Finchem has pushed to “decertify” the 2020 results in Arizona, where Joe Biden won by just over 10,000 votes. He was a prominent backer of the Maricopa County recount of ballots. (Despite the partisan nature of the recount, it affirmed that Biden had won.)

Finchem was also in Washington for the January 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” rally. And he tweeted of the rioters: “What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud.” Finchem has denied any involvement in the riot and has not been charged with anything.

On the one-year anniversary of the riot, Finchem falsely tweeted that the “real insurrection” was how Democrats in the state “rigged the vote in Arizona with tens of thousands of fraudulent votes.”

Marchant is cut from similar cloth. Not only has he promoted baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, he claims the (nonexistent) fraud goes back much further.

“In Nevada, and maybe other places all over the country – we haven’t in Nevada elected anybody since 2006,” Marchant has said. “They have been installed by the deep state cabal.”

Marchant has said that had he been secretary of state in 2020, he would not have certified Biden’s 33,500-vote victory in the state and argued that it was “almost statistically impossible that Joe Biden won.” Marchant unsuccessfully sought a court order to force a re-vote in a 2020 congressional race he lost (by more than 16,000 votes). He even raised questions about his own victory in the primary for secretary of state earlier this year, noting that he was “not really confident in the result.”

Finchem and Marchant, unsurprisingly, are both endorsed by Trump.

Both of these candidates have a roughly 50-50 chance of being the top election official in their respective states after the midterm elections. And both Arizona and Nevada are widely regarded as likely to be hotly contested in the 2024 presidential race – as they were in 2020.

It’s very hard to imagine that either Finchem or Marchant would suddenly abandon their beliefs about fraudulent elections. Which would mean that in two of a handful of key swing states in 2024, avowed election deniers could be in control of the vote-counting process. Which is a scary proposition.