Tucson-area legislator and Republican Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem has been a staunch supporter of false claims about the 2020 election, and has made election security a key component of his campaign.
Rep. Finchem's denials that Joe Biden won Arizona include an appearance at a Stop the Steal rally on January 5, 2021 in Washington, DC.
"Do you find it odd that the Democrats aren't doing a happy dance over winning? When you steal something, it's not a win. It's a fraud," he said in a brief speech at the event that was the day before the storming of the US Capitol.
In that speech, Finchem said there needs to be a forensic accounting of every vote in every state that's in question.
The Arizona Secretary of State's website shows that hand-count audits for most counties in Arizona had been completed almost two months prior to that time.
These audits fall under a provision of state law that allows county political parties to request a hand count of a sample of ballots to test the accuracy of the vote tabulation equipment. Results must be reported to the state.
Representatives from political parties that are entitled to representation on the state ballot are allowed to attend these audits.
Audits were performed in 10 Arizona counties, with party officials in Apache, Gila, Graham, La Paz and Yuma counties, as local Republicans and other political parties did not designate the required members for the Hand Count Election Board.
Coconino, Greenlee, Maricopa, Navajo, Santa Cruz and Yavapai counties were found to have no discrepancies. Discrepancies found in Cochise, Mohave, Pima and Pinal counties were "found to be within the acceptable margin."
The Arizona Senate would hire the outside firm Cyber Ninjas, who had no prior experience conducting election audits, to complete another audit months later, one that Senate President Karen Fann, also a Republican, would refer to in emails obtained by the Arizona Republic as a "full forensic audit."
"Every one of our caucus members work hard to represent all of our constituents and have taken on this huge additional task of a full forensic audit of 2.1 million ballots. This is in additional to all their other full time obligations," she wrote in response to an email threatening a recall effort against Fann and other Republicans.
The Cyber Ninjas audit reported that Arizona had undercounted Joe Biden's votes by 99 and overcounted Donald Trump's by 261. More than 10,000 votes separated the two in official results.
Despite the audits, Finchem continued to espouse support for ideas that Joe Biden did not win Arizona in 2020.
Another such occurrence came when he mentioned support for a group led by former Trump Campaign Attorney Cleta Mitchell.
Finchem made the following statement on a July 2022 appearance on Voice of Healing Radio with Michael Petro, which airs on Houston-area radio station KKHT. The station is owned by Salem Media Group, which is listed as an executive producer of the largely-debunked election fraud documentary 2000 Mules.
"Cleta Mitchell has launched the Election Integrity Network, and she is going to key states, I think eight different key states, where we know that election fraud, election irregularities, whatever, discrepancies, you use the word you want to use. But the elections were rigged, and she is going to those states to implement a strategy that is about building election integrity infrastructure."
The Election Integrity Network website also notes a connection with The Conservative Partnership Institute, which is headed by former US Senator Jim DeMint and former White House House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
An NPR report said "Experts in tax law told NPR that the nonprofit group appears to be pushing the boundaries of charity law by closely entwining itself with explicitly Republican and pro-Trump political organizations."
Finchem's fraud claims have not quieted since he won the primary to represent the Republican Party in the Secretary of State's race.
In a post-primary August 25 appearance on the John Fredericks Show, a conservative talk show originating in Virginia, Finchem continued to make similar claims about the election.
“I’m a fan of the West Virginia model, which is absentee ballots opt-in. In Arizona, we have flood the zone with fake ballots.”
The term "flood the zone" has been used in many instances by Steve Bannon, a former advisor to Trump and founding member of Breitbart News.
The claims are not limited to conservative media either. Finchem made claims about the 2020 election during the Arizona Clean Elections debate between himself and Adrian Fontes, the Democratic Party nominee in the Secretary of State race and the Maricopa County Recorder in 2020. The debate aired on Arizona Horizon, a program on Arizona PBS.
Finchem was asked if he would have signed off on the state's 2020 election results if he were the Secretary of State at the time of the election.
Finchem started his answer by saying there were too many hypotheticals in that question before adding, "But knowing what we know today, there are certain counties that should have been set aside as irredeemably compromised. Maricopa County was one of them. Yuma County was one of them. We have so many votes outside of the law that it begs the question, 'What do we do with an election where we have votes that are in the stream but should not be counted?'."
When pressed for evidence, Finchem mentioned "people who were indicted and plead guilty" of ballot harvesting. Guillermina Fuentes and Alma Juarez of San Luis plead guilty to charges related to ballot harvesting.
The Associated Press reported, "that fewer than a dozen ballots could be linked to Fuentes, not enough to make a difference in all but the tightest local races."
Finchem also mentioned evidence of ballot harvesting from 2000 Mules and said there is terabytes of video and documentation showing cases on open.ink.