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Michigan AG Brings Felony Charges Against 16 ‘False Electors’ In 2020 Presidential Election

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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has announced charges against 16 people who signed certificates claiming that President Donald Trump won Michigan in the 2020 election.

Each of the 16 individuals faces multiple felony charges that in total carry a maximum penalty of 85 years in prison, in what Nessel’s office said was a “false electors scheme” in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.

“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.

“My department has prosecuted numerous cases of election law violations throughout my tenure, and it would be malfeasance of the greatest magnitude if my department failed to act here in the face of overwhelming evidence of an organized effort to circumvent the lawfully cast ballots of millions of Michigan voters in a presidential election,” she added.

Following Mr. Trump’s claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, Republican electors in seven states—including Michigan—cast alternative slates of votes for Mr. Trump.

While there has been precedent for dueling sets of electors casting votes in a presidential election, the large number of states to do so in 2020 sent the election into uncharted territory.

‘Duly Elected and Qualified Electors’

Republicans in some of the states said that the rationale for casting alternative slates of elector votes would preserve Mr. Trump’s legal claim for the election as legal challenges made their way through the courts.

“Sending more than one slate of electors is not unheard of,” said Meshawn Maddock, former co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, in an emailed release in December 2020. “It’s our duty to the people of Michigan and to the U.S. Constitution to send another slate of electors if the election is in controversy or dispute—and clearly it is.”

Ms. Maddock is one of the 16 individuals who has been charged in Tuesday’s announcement by the Michigan AG. The other individuals who face charges are Kathy Berden, a Republican National Committeewoman from Michigan; William (Hank) Choate; Amy Facchinello; Clifford Frost; Stanley Grot; John Haggard; Mary-Ann Henry; Timothy King; Michele Lundgren; James Renner; Mayra Rodriguez; Rose Rook; Marian Sheridan; Ken Thompson; and Kent Vanderwood.

The Michigan AG’s office said that the defendants met at the Michigan Republican Party headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020, and signed their names on multiple certificates stating that they were the “duly elected and qualified electors” for President and Vice President of the United States for the State of Michigan.

“That was a lie,” Nessel said at a press conference Tuesday. “They weren’t the duly elected and qualified electors and each of the defendants knew it.”

These documents were subsequently transmitted to the U.S. Senate and the National Archives in what Nessel’s office described as a “coordinated effort” to hand the state’s electoral votes to a different candidate than the one actually elected by the people of Michigan.

“The evidence will demonstrate there was no legal authority for the false electors to purport to act as ‘duly elected presidential electors’ and execute the false electoral documents,” Nessel said in a statement.

Each of the accused faces multiple felony counts: forgery, conspiracy to commit forgery, “uttering and publishing,” and conspiracy to commit “uttering and publishing,” which is a crime related to counterfeiting important documents and then trying to pass them off as legitimate. Each of these four counts carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

The defendants each face two other charges: election law forgery and conspiracy to commit election law forgery, each of which is a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 5 years behind bars.

Attorneys for the defendants weren’t immediately available for comment. The Michigan Republican Party did not immediately return a request for comment on the charges.

While Mr. Trump has not issued any public comments with respect to the charges announced by Nessel, he issued a statement Tuesday in which he continued his claims of “massive fraud” in the 2020 presidential election.

“Under the United States Constitution, I have the right to protest an Election that I am fully convinced was Rigged and Stolen, just as the Democrats have done against me in 2016, and many others have done over the ages,” Mr. Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social.

Political Prosecution?

Nessel said during the press conference that she expects some people will claim that the charges are political in nature.

“But where there is overwhelming evidence of guilt in respect to multiple crimes, the most political act I could engage in as a prosecutor would be to take no action at all,” she said.

Nessel added that the investigation is ongoing and further charges may be added on top of the ones announced on Tuesday.

By contrast, the attorney general of Nevada, where a group of electors similarly submitted invalid paperwork, in May declined to press charges against the group.

Nevada AG Aaron Ford, a Democrat, said at the time that there was no state statute that would allow electors to be prosecuted for submitting false documents.

A state bill that would make it a crime to sign certificates falsely stating that a losing candidate has won a certain state cleared the Nevada legislature but was later vetoed by Gov. Joe Lombardo, a Republican.

The U.S. president is selected by 538 electors, known as the Electoral College, with electors apportioned based on the population of each state.

Typically, the popular vote in each state determines which candidate receives a state’s electoral votes.

In 1876, a deadlock ensued among dueling electors in three states. However, just days before Inauguration Day, a resolution was found through a negotiated agreement.

Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes assumed the presidency in exchange for the withdrawal of remaining U.S. troops from Southern states, which had previously been engaged in the American Civil War.

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