Fake electors are facing consequences all across the country. What about Arizona’s?

fake electors

Republicans met at Party Headquarters on Dec. 14, 2020, to sign a falsified document alleging they were the state's duly appointed slate of electors. (Image via Twitter)

By Camaron Stevenson

December 7, 2023

It’s been three years since Republicans in seven states—including Arizona—attempted to overturn the 2020 election results by sending falsified documents to Congress.

Since then, fake electors in Georgia, Michigan, and Nevada have been charged with crimes ranging from conspiracy to election interference. In Wisconsin, fake electors settled a civil lawsuit where they admitted their efforts were “part of an attempt to improperly overturn the 2020 presidential election results.”

But what about the fake electors in Arizona?

Investigation in early stages

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes in November announced a broad investigation into the actions of the state’s fake electors who signed documents claiming to be the legitimate representatives of Arizona’s electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election.

In an interview with The Copper Courier, Mayes revealed that her office had been working on the case since she had assumed office in January 2023.

But, while investigators in Georgia began investigating in February 2021, and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessell reopened her case in January 2023, Mayes said the Attorney General’s Office had not investigated the fake electors under her predecessor, and when she assumed office, she essentially had to start from scratch.

“I know that people want to put a timeline on this, and they want to compare the states and then sort of make educated guesses and trajectories on those kinds of things,” Mayes said. “I ask people for patience, for understanding.”

@coppercourier

Here’s what’s going on with @azagmayes’ investigation of Arizona’s fake electors, and why it hasn’t taken as long as you think. #azpol #trumpindictment #fakeelectors #trump #maga #insurrection #j6 #trumpforprison #2024elections #beballotready #aznews #newstok #everythingarizona

♬ original sound – Copper Courier

Will elected officials be charged?

The investigation comes as several other grand jury indictments have been announced by the attorney general’s office, including charges brought against two Cochise County Supervisors for conspiracy and interference of an election officer.

In December 2022, Cochise County certified election results only after a judge ruled Crosby and Judd, both Republicans, were breaking the law by refusing to sign off on the vote count by the deadline.

“The repeated attempts to undermine our democracy are unacceptable,” Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes said. “I took an oath to uphold the rule of law, and my office will continue to enforce Arizona’s elections laws and support our election officials as they carry out the duties and responsibilities of their offices.”

The indictment serves as a glimpse into how Mayes will handle investigating fake electors who hold elected office. Arizona Sens. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, and Anthony Kern, R-Phoenix, both served in the state legislature when they signed the false document claiming Donald Trump won Arizona in 2020. Dr. Kelli Ward, then-Chair of the Republican Party of Arizona, served in the state legislature from 2013 to 2015.

When asked, Mayes declined to comment on the specifics of the fake electors investigation, instead emphasizing the gravity of the situation.

“It’s a very serious issue. American democracy is precious, and this is an incredibly important matter,” Mayes said. “We’ll let people know when we’re ready to let people know when we have something to announce. My predecessor had a habit of doing midstream updates on an investigation, and I don’t think that’s a good idea. It’s not something that I will be doing.”

What are fake electors

In December 2020, 11 people met at the state Republican Party of Arizona headquarters in Phoenix and signed documents claiming to be the legitimate electors, or representatives, of Arizona’s electoral votes.

Electors are people appointed by state parties, sometimes before the general election, to represent voters. The job is often given to current and former party officials, state lawmakers, and party activists.

The winner of the state’s popular vote determines which party’s electors are sent to the Electoral College, which convenes in December after the election to certify the winner of the White House.

In 2020, the majority of Arizona voters cast their ballots for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, so the Arizona Democratic Party chose the state’s slate of official electors. Unofficially, and illegally, the Republican Party of Arizona also chose a slate of electors to be sent to Congress:

  • Tyler Bowyer: CEO, right-wing student organization Turning Point USA; National Commiteeman, Republican Party of Arizona
  • Nancy Cottle: Chair person for slate of fake electors; Vice President of Programs, Arizona Federation of Republican Women
  • Jake Hoffman: Arizona state senator representing Queen Creek
  • Anthony Kern: Arizona state senator representing Phoenix and Glendale; candidate for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District
  • Jim Lamon: Former Republican candidate for US Senate; former CEO of DEPCOM Power, a subsidiary of Koch Engineered Solutions
  • Robert Montgomery: Former chairman of the Cochise County Republican Committee
  • Sam Moorhead, Former Gila County Provisional Community College District Governing Board Member; former Gila County Republican Party Second Vice Chair
  • Loraine Pellegrino: Secretary for slate of fake electors
  • Greg Safsten: Executive Director, Republican Party of Arizona
  • Dr. Kelli Ward: Former state legislator, former Chair of the Republican Party of Arizona
  • Dr. Michael Ward: Husband of Dr. Kelli Ward

The fake electors in Arizona and elsewhere then publicly advocated for then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject the legitimate Democratic slate of electors and accept them instead.

Pence’s refusal and the subsequent attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, has led to hundreds of arrests, the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump for inciting the insurrection, and investigations into fake electors in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

Timelines of different states

Each state has handled its investigations differently. In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis announced her office’s investigation into Trump’s election interference in February 2021, one month after she had taken office. A grand jury was selected to review the case in May, and deliberated the case for 20 months, delivering their report to Willis’ office in January 2023.

In May 2023, 8 of Georgia’s 16 fake electors accepted immunity deals in exchange for their testimony surrounding Trump’s role in the scheme. The former president was indicted three months later on August 14 with 13 charges relating to election interference.

Willis’ criminal case against the remaining fake electors remains ongoing.

In Michigan, Nessel began her initial investigation in January 2021, around the same time as Willis. But after looking into her state’s slate of 16 fake electors for a year, she referred the case to the US Justice Department.

“This is part of a much bigger conspiracy,” Nessel told MSNBC. “Our hope is that the federal authorities and the Department of Justice and United States Attorney General Merrick Garland will take this in coordination with all the other information they’ve received, and make an evaluation as to what charges these individuals might face.”

After a year went by with no charges against Michigan’s fake electors from federal authorities, Nessel announced in January 2023 that she was reopening her case. Six months later—culminating in a total 18-month investigation from the Michigan Attorney General’s Office—Nessel charged her state’s 16 fake electors with 8 counts of criminal conduct, ranging from conspiracy to election law forgery.

In August, all 16 electors pleaded not guilty, and in October, one entered into a plea deal with Nessel’s office in exchange for their cooperation. Preliminary examinations by the courts will conclude on December 15, after which a trial date will be scheduled.

Nevada’s investigation had been kept under wraps by the state’s attorney general, Aaron Ford, until it was first reported on by Politico in November 2023. It is currently unknown when the investigation in Nevada began.

Ford’s office had been conducting interviews with witnesses, and utilized a plea deal federal prosecutors offered Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro, wherein Chesebro promised his full cooperation with prosecutors on cases relating to 2020 election interference.

Chesebro traveled to Nevada on December 1, 2023, to cooperate with Nevada prosecutors on their investigation into the state’s fake electors. Six days later, Ford’s office indicted Nevada’s six fake electors on federal charges relating to election interference.

Chesebro is scheduled to meet with Mayes in Arizona on December 11.

Author

  • Camaron Stevenson

    Camaron is the Founding Editor and Chief Political Correspondent for The Copper Courier, and has worked as a journalist in Phoenix for over a decade. He also teaches multimedia journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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