On Tuesday, State Attorney General Dana Nessel and prosecutors in Michigan announced criminal charges against the 16 Republicans who served as fake electors in 2020. The group includes current and former state GOP officials, a Republican National Committee member, a sitting mayor, a school board member and Trump supporters who were the plaintiffs in a frivolous lawsuit that tried to overturn the 2020 results.
Some of the GOP electors in Michigan were local activists who were recruited to serve as “fake electors,” all while inaccurately believing there was still a chance that then-President Donald Trump might secure a second consecutive term. They are accused of submitting false certificates that confirmed they were legitimate electors when they were not.
Kathy Berden, the head of the Republican National Committee’s chapter in Michigan, and the former co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, Meshawn Maddock, and Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot are among those charged.
Efforts to deceive are a top concern among state election officials heading into 2024, and this move against the “fake electors” is partly meant to enforce accountability and to discourage those perpetrating deceptive tactics.
In the end the signed false certificates did not achieve their goal, but the attempt to overturn a legitimate election raised alarms about the possibility of a repeat in future elections and the effort has been subject to investigations, including by the House committee that investigated the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“The false electors’ actions undermined the public’s faith in the integrity of our elections and, we believe, also plainly violated the laws by which we administer our elections in Michigan,” Nessel said in a statement. False Electoral College certificates were also submitted declaring Trump the winner of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The 16 individuals are set to appear for arraignment in Ingham County at a date provided to each by the court, according to Nessel’s office.
Some of the 16 individuals who have been charged have openly asserted that they still believe they were acting in the public interest and that what they did was right.
John Haggard, 82, of Charlevoix, told The Detroit News on Tuesday that he didn’t believe he did anything wrong.
“Did I do anything illegal? No,” Haggard said.
In January of last year, Nessel asked federal prosecutors to open a criminal investigation into the 16 Republicans.
“Obviously this is part of a much bigger conspiracy,” she said at the time. According to documents released last year by Nessel’s office, five vote tabulators were taken from Roscommon and Missaukee counties in northern Michigan, and Barry County in western Michigan. The tabulators were subsequently broken into and “tests” were performed on the equipment.
Investigations are underway in some other states that submitted fake electors, but not all.
A Georgia prosecutor has agreed to immunity deals with at least eight fake electors but the investigation is ongoing. It has been downplayed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R-GA) as a “distraction” from the Biden administration’s record.
Nevada’s attorney general, also a Democrat, has said he won’t bring charges, while Wisconsin has no active investigation and the attorney general has deferred to the U.S. Justice Department.
In Pennsylvania, which was another high stakes state in the 2020 election, former Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is now governor, said he didn’t believe there was evidence the actions of the fake electors met the legal standards for forgery.
A group of other Trump allies in Michigan, including former GOP attorney general candidate Matthew DePerno, are facing potential criminal charges related to attempts to gain access to voting machines after the 2020 election.