4 things to know ahead of Michigan's Republican convention Republicans in Michigan will decide whether to nominate candidates for secretary of state and state attorney general who believe the 2020 election was stolen.

This weekend's Michigan GOP convention marks a key moment for election denialism

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Republicans in Michigan today are expected to get a step closer to officially nominating someone to oversee voting in the state who denies the 2020 election results. NPR's Miles Parks covers voting. He's in Grand Rapids, where the state Republicans are holding their convention. Miles, thanks for being with us.

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Hey, Scott.

SIMON: Thousands of Republicans congregating - what exactly are they going to do?

PARKS: So in essence, they're deciding whether they want candidates on the ballot this November who share Trump's false beliefs about the 2020 election. But in practice, it gets a little more wonky than that. Michigan is one of the few states that doesn't actually hold primaries for down-ballot statewide races. Both Republicans and Democrats pick their nominees for November's general election at conventions made up of all of these county delegates. So a few thousand Republicans today will decide their slate for secretary of state, lieutenant governor or attorney general and a bunch of other races, too. And in a couple of key races, they'll be deciding whether to go forward with some fairly controversial people who Trump has endorsed.

SIMON: Now, you cover voting, and the secretary of state essentially counts the votes, too. So you're looking at this closely.

PARKS: Yes, absolutely. NPR has been tracking all over the country where people who deny the 2020 election results are running to oversee voting in these positions. People in these sorts of positions, including in Michigan in 2020, stood up to a really prominent pressure campaign by Trump after the 2020 election. And experts I've talked to are really worried about democracy if these sorts of people are replaced with party loyalists heading into 2022 and 2024.

SIMON: And one of these candidates is on the ballot in Michigan today?

PARKS: Correct. In Michigan, a woman named Kristina Karamo is widely expected to win this endorsement today. She's a community college professor who thinks the 2020 election was stolen, among a bunch of other controversial stances that she has. She's self-identified as an anti-vaxxer, and she said she doesn't think evolution should be taught in schools, according to reporting by CNN. But she does have the endorsement of former President Trump, who held a rally for her and other candidates he's supporting in Michigan earlier this month. Here's Karamo speaking at that rally.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KRISTINA KARAMO: So I am so excited to be your next secretary of state, to make sure that no matter who you vote for, what you believe, your vote counts and your vote isn't nullified by an illegal ballot.

PARKS: Trump has made this state maybe his biggest priority in the midterm elections this year. In addition to Karamo, he's actually endorsed more than a dozen other candidates here who are running in November. And he made it clear at that rally a couple of weeks ago that he wants his supporters specifically in positions where they control the voting process.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Remember, this is not just about 2022. This is about making sure Michigan is not rigged and stolen again in 2024. Remember that.

SIMON: But, Miles, this tees up the question. Trump lost Michigan in 2020 by more than 150,000 votes. How much sway will his endorsement hold in the process?

PARKS: That honestly, is the biggest question heading into today's endorsement vote. The race for attorney general specifically sets up a really stark divide within the state's GOP. On one hand, you have this Kalamazoo lawyer named Matthew DePerno who's never held elected office and who has fully bought into the conspiracy that the 2020 election was stolen. And on the other side, you have a guy named Tom Leonard, who's the former speaker of the Michigan state House, and he's considered a much more establishment Republican candidate. I talked to Jason Rowe, who's the former executive director of the state party.

JASON ROWE: Really, what we're going to find out in this outcome is what the direction of the Republican Party is in Michigan for the foreseeable future. If Matthew DePerno secures the nomination, I think it will demonstrate that the MAGA wing of the party is in control of the party.

PARKS: Rowe was really skeptical, however, about just how viable these more far-right choices who are expected to be selected today could be in the general election in November.

SIMON: NPR's Miles Parks, thanks so much.

PARKS: Thank you.

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