Scores of Republicans Joined Trump’s Unsuccessful ‘Fake Elector’ Plot
Before the 2020 presidential election, the term “fake electors” sounded more like a food additive than what has become one of the key components in trump’s conspiracy to prove that he actually won re-election but was defeated because of of widespread voter fraud, in other words, his big lie.
In short, the plan was to subvert the electoral college process by having counterfeit electoral votes submitted by “fake electors” who supported trump in seven swing states that were won by President Biden, fair and square, with no proven voting fraud. In no uncertain terms, it was an attempted coup initially orchestrated by former trump attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
Without getting overly wonky, the way the electoral process works is that voters pick a president in November and the results are forwarded to the Electoral College and its 538 individual electors. The winning candidate is represented by their designated slate of electors, who in turn vote to elect a president. Trump conspired to replace Biden’s electors with phony Republican electors who had been enrolled by trump’s camp to fill fake elector slots and to sign fake electoral certificates.
The vice president then has the ceremonial role of reading the electoral counts from each state. But trump wanted Pence to break with tradition and illegally replace the Biden electors with trumpers. At best, Pence would declare trump the winner; at worst, Pence could point to confusion over the real electoral voters and order a delay in the electoral count, allowing states to revise their voting and certify trump’s electors.
Pence refused, despite trump’s harassment and threats and Biden was named president, while the riot at the Capitol by trump supporters unfolded. But many trump supporters did not refuse and willingly joined with 84 Republicans who signed on as fake electors.
Phony electoral certificates were signed by Republican state lawmakers and party officials in Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico, states that account for a combined 84 electoral votes, that were all won by Biden. The plot failed and the situation is under investigation by the Justice Department, state prosecutors and the House Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attempted coup by trump supporters.
Among many others, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., was sucked into the swirl of failed events to overturn the election. Johnson told the House investigation committee that he was unaware that one of his aides had tried to pass a list of fake electors for Michigan and Wisconsin through then-Vice President Mike Pence’s legislative director.
“These things were delivered to our office — I didn’t know they were coming,” Johnson said. “I had no hand in it. My staff — my chief of staff did the right thing, he called up the vice president. He didn’t want it, we didn’t send it to him. End of story.” Sorry, Senator Johnson, it’s not the end of the story, not by a long shot.
Arizona State House Speaker Rusty Bowers, a Republican, testified to the House investigations committee that he refused trump’s request that he file as a fake elector. Bogus trump certificates were signed by numerous Republicans including elected officials and party leaders. Here is a bit about some of the Republicans who were not as ethical as Bowers and willingly signed on to the plot and put their names on phony electoral certificates.
- Dr. Kelli Ward, Arizona State Republican Party chair, and her husband, Dr. Michael Ward. Also singing as fake electors were James Lamon, who is running for U.S. Senate, state Rep. Jake Hoffman, Tyler Bowyer, businessman Samuel I. Moorhead, Nancy Cottle and Loraine B. Pellegrino.
Kelli Ward, 53, is an osteopathic doctor who has been chair of the Arizona GOP since January 2019. She was a state senator from 2013 to 2015. She ran twice for U.S. Senate, losing in 2016 to Sen. John McCain and then in 2018 to Martha McSally.
After trump lost 25 states, including Arizona, and the 2020 presidential election, Ward filed unsuccessful lawsuits seeking to nullify the state’s election results.
Her links to fringe conservatives have been documented. During the 2018 campaign, Ward disavowed Paul Nehlen, an anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim commentator whom she had previously praised as a “friend.” Ward’s husband has promoted conspiracy theories about Seth Rich, Bill and Hillary Clinton murdering people, and John McCain cooperating with the Islamic State. Mr. Ward campaigned for his wife with Mike Cernovich, the far right winger who promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. In August 2018, Mrs. Ward said McCain’s announcement that he was stopping medical treatment for terminal brain cancer was a publicity stunt to take attention from Ward’s campaign.
After Biden’s victory, Ward helped trump by trying to subvert election results and sending out mailings that the election was “stolen” although she offered no proof. She also said fake rioters at the Capitol uprising tried to undermine Trump supporters.
James Lamon, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, said he signed the fake elector document believing that it was a contingency plan in the event that the Arizona results were decertified. The document that was sent by registered mail to the U.S. Senate and the National Archives made no reference to a back up plan and it noted that Lamon and the 10 others were “duly elected and qualified electors” from Arizona, which they clearly, were not.
Lamon said the House committee’s focus on the document and the subpoenas issued by the Justice Department were thinly veiled ploys by the Democrats to avoid talking about important issues, such as illegal immigration.
Rep. Jake Hoffman was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives on Jan. 11, 2021, and is the vice-chair of the Arizona House’s Committee on Government and Elections. Hoffman runs “Rally Forge,” a digital-marketing company that paid teenagers to post thousands of propaganda messages under the teens’ accounts, and others under assumed names, on behalf of Turning Point Action, a conservative group working to elect Republicans and led by Charlie Kirk. The posts claimed that mail-in ballots would “lead to fraud” and that Democrats planned to steal the Presidency. The Guardian reported that Rally Forge also formed a fake left-wing front group, “America Progress Now,” which promoted Green Party candidates online in 2018, to hurt Democrats in several races. Rally Forge was banned from Facebook in 2020 when Hoffman was permanently suspended by Twitter.
“I intend to contribute to this legacy as a defender and champion of freedom, free markets, opportunity for all, limited government, fiscal responsibility, and family and religious liberty,” Hoffman’s website says. The state lawmaker who signed the phony elector form said that Arizona is “on the verge of being lost to the radical left for generations to come.”
Samuel Moorhead is listed as the secretary of the Catholic Men’s Association Of Globe, Ariz.
Tyler Bowyer is the CEO of Turning Point USA, an organization that operates the nationwide youth effort “Students for Trump.” Bowyer is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and part of an effort in August 2020 to launch a “Latter-day Saints for Trump” coalition.
Nancy Cottle is the chair of the so-called Alternate Electors for Arizona and Loraine B. Pellegrino is secretary. A statement by their attorney said, “Those who would call this a crime demonstrate that they do not understand the basic principles on which this country is based. Make no mistake: It is for exercising their fundamental rights as Americans that Nancy and Loraine have now been targeted by the United States Congress.”
Arizona officials said they signed the fake elector forms at the recommendation of Greg Safsten, the executive director of the Republican Party of Arizona. Safsten most recently served on the staff of Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., an outspoken, far right supporter of trump’s big lie.
- Georgia’s fake-certificate signers include state Sen. Burt Jones, who is running for lieutenant governor, and David Shafer, state party chair.
Jones, 43, was a member of the Georgia State Senate since January 2013 and recently won the state GOP primary for lieutenant governor. He is an oil and insurance executive, and heir to the Jones Petroleum Company.
Jones promoted trump’s false claims of election fraud and was one of four state Senate Republicans who signed a petition calling on the Georgia General Assembly to overrule the outcome of democratic elections within the state and “take back the power to appoint electors.”
Georgia GOP head Shafer chose Jones as a false elector. On Jan. 19, 2021, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan stripped Jones of his chairmanship and membership of the state Senate Insurance and Labor Committee. In July 2021, Jones was featured at a pro-Trump convention in Rome, Ga., centering on Trump’s false claims of election fraud. In January, the Justice Department began a criminal investigation into Jones as one of the false electors who attempted to forge electoral certificates for the State of Georgia after the 2020 election.
Shafer, 47, has been the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party since 2019 and is a member of the Georgia State Senate. On Dec. 14, 2020, Shafer described himself as “Chairman” and “Chairperson” of the “Electoral College of Georgia,” and submitted 16 fraudulent Electoral College votes to the U.S. Senate and the National Archives. He claimed that the Trump campaign had directed the Georgia GOP to submit the slate of false electors. On June 22, 2022, the U.S Department of Justice subpoenaed Shafer in connection with his alleged role in organizing the fake slate of electors.
- Signers as Michigan fake electors included Meshawn Maddock, co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party and wife of Republican Michigan State Rep. Matt Maddock, a bail bondsman. Mrs. Maddock is a prior board member of Women for Trump and in January 2021, she helped organize a delegation of 19 buses to travel to Washington, D.C., to protest the election results. She spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 5 but was not at the storming of the Capitol that occurred the next day.
In June 2021, Maddock called for Michigan to secede from the United States “to escape Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s tyrannical rule.” Maddock also promoted a baseless rumor on social media in 2022 that Midland Public Schools had placed litter boxes in the bathrooms for students who identified as cats or furries.
Also signing as a fake elector from Michigan was alleged QAnon supporter Amy Facchinello, a member of the Grand Blanc Board of Education. Faccinello resisted public pressure to resign because of her alleged views about QAnon conspiracies.
Shelby (Michigan) Township Clerk Stan Grot, who also signed as a fake elector, is a former Michigan GOP secretary of state candidate and is running for a seat on the Michigan State House. In 2018, Grot and Michigan Republican Party Chair Ron Weiser were at the center of a bribery scandal, in which Weiser used $200,000 in party funds to push Grot out of the GOP primary race for the office. Attorney General Dana Nessel declined to pursue charges against Weiser, who paid a $200,000 state fine.
- In Wisconsin, Andrew Hitt, former chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, signed on as a fake elector. Hitt said he will comply with a subpoena he received from the House select committee investigating the events around the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. Hitt said he was simply following the guidance of Wisconsin legal counsel “to preserve the ongoing Wisconsin legal strategy. There was no intent beyond that and I’m happy to participate in this process to clarify any confusion that may exist.”
Robert Spindell, one of 10 Wisconsin Republicans who posed as an elector for trump, is running for chair of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Spindell has praised Jack Posobiec, a far-right agitator who is known for spreading voter fraud conspiracies and disinformation on the trump-friendly One America News Network.
- Five electors who signed the fake certificates from New Mexico were Jewll Powdrell, a retired businessman from Rio Rancho and member of the United Black Conservatives of New Mexico; Deborah W. Maestas, the former Chairwoman of the Republican Party of New Mexico; Lupe Garcia, a New Mexico businessman; Rosie Tripp, former committee member of the Republican National Committee; and Anissa Ford-Tinnin, a campaign aide to former Gov. Susana Martinez.
Powdrell said he signed as a fake elector “at the insistence of the chairman of the Republican Party, who is Congressman Steve Pearce.” Under New Mexico state law, it is a felony for designated electors to cast their ballot for anyone other than the presidential candidate who received the majority of the votes cast in the state.
Pearce, 74, served in Congress from 2003 to 2009 and from 2011 to 2019. While in office, Pearce repeated the debunked, birther theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. He also was skeptical about the scientific consensus on climate change and soon after the 2020 presidential election, Pearce called for donations so trump could challenge what Pearce called the fraudulent election results. On Jan. 9, Pearce tweeted that Trump “will be our President FOREVER and no one can take that away from us.”
The total 84 people who signed as fake electors include: Lou Barletta and Charlie Gerow, both former candidates for governor in Pennsylvania; Burt Jones, a former candidate for lieutenant governor in Georgia; James Lamon, a candidate for U.S. Senate from Arizona; and candidates for state legislative seats.
The group includes eight current officeholders: Arizona State Rep. Jake Hoffman; Georgia State Sen. Burt Jones; Stanley Grot, the Shelby Township clerk in Michigan; Amy Facchinello, a member of the school board in Grand Blanc, Mich.; Robert Spindell Jr., a member of the Wisconsin Election Commission; Sam DeMarco III, an at-large member of the Allegheny County Council in Pennsylvania, and a member of the county board of elections; Josephine Ferro, the Monroe County Register of Wills in Pennsylvania; and Kelly Ruh, an alderperson for De Pere, Wis.
Also signing were the chair or co-chair of the state Republican Party in all seven states, including several who have had their own controversies: Michael Ward of Arizona has been accused of spitting in the eye of a former campaign volunteer for his wife, Kelli Ward; Tom Carroll of Pennsylvania was accused by a Black colleague of leaving a stuffed monkey on her desk in a racist act, while he was serving as an assistant district attorney; Gloria Kay Godwin of Georgia has been accused of stalking after allegedly attempting to interfere in a citizen effort to obtain signatures for a recall election petition.