Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced forgery charges Tuesday against 16 alternate electors for President Donald Trump in 2020, despite existing precedent — by Democrats — in using alternate electors.
Nessel, a highly partisan figure who urged President Joe Biden to close a crucial local oil pipeline, and once joked that she wanted “a drag queen for every school,” announced the charges, which are the first of their kind.
In a statement, she said:
“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,” said Nessel. “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.”
These defendants are alleged to have met covertly in the basement of the Michigan Republican Party headquarters on December 14th, and signed their names to multiple certificates stating they were the “duly elected and qualified electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America for the State of Michigan.” These false documents were then transmitted to the United States Senate and National Archives in a coordinated effort to award the state’s electoral votes to the candidate of their choosing, in place of the candidates actually elected by the people of Michigan.
The Trump campaign created several slates of alternate electors. This was not an attempt to create “fake” or “fraudulent” electors to fool authorities, but rather to provide a legal remedy in the event the election results were overturned. The fear was that if a court, or a state legislature, invalidated the Electoral College vote of Michigan or another closely contested state, those votes would not be awarded to Trump without electors.
Democrats themselves used this strategy in the 1960 election, a close race between Vice President Richard Nixon (R) and Sen. John Kennedy (D-MA).
As Politico once noted, Kennedy used alternate electors in Hawaii :
Nixon’s Hawaii electors met and cast their three votes in an official ceremony. But nearby, Kennedy’s three elector nominees gathered and signed their own certificates, delivering them to Washington as though Kennedy had won the state.
Until now, it’s been unclear whether the 1960 case of the Kennedy electors was truly analogous to 2020 Trump electors. But the unofficial Democratic certificates, obtained by POLITICO from the non-digitized files of the National Archives, show the three Kennedy electors signed documents that are remarkably similar to the false Trump-elector certificates.