Michigan AG Charges 16 People for Roles in 2020 Fake Elector Scheme

“They weren’t the duly elected and qualified electors, and each of the defendants knew it.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. Jake May/AP

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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced on Tuesday that charges have been filed against 16 residents of the state for their roles in a fake elector scheme following the 2020 election. All 16 have been charged with eight felony counts, including forgery and election law forgery. 

“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. The announcement comes just hours after Donald Trump revealed that he has received a target letter from Special Counsel Jack Smith related to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. 

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the election in Michigan by more than 150,000 votes. Trump and his allies worked to overturn the results of the election in the state, even though they hadn’t requested a recount.

The indictment alleges that, on the day Michigan’s electoral votes were being awarded to Biden and Harris, the defendants secretly signed 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” as part of an effort to award Michigan’s electoral votes to Donald Trump and Mike Pence. “That was a lie,” Nessel said. “They weren’t the duly elected and qualified electors, and each of the defendants knew it.”

An attorney tied to the fake electors tried without success to deliver the “2020 Certificate of Votes” to the Michigan Senate in an incident that was recorded on video. 

The certificates they signed did end up being sent to the United States Senate and the National Archives. Nessel, a Democrat first elected in 2018, made clear that there “was no legitimate legal avenue or plausible use of such a document or an alternative slate of electors.”

Under Michigan law, electoral votes need to be cast in official chambers. Former Michigan Republican Chair Laura Cox told the January 6 committee that the fake electors considered hiding out overnight at the state Capitol to meet that requirement. Cox told a lawyer pushing the plan that the idea was “insane and inappropriate.” The fake electors falsely claimed on the certificates that they’d met inside the Capitol. In reality, they’d met in the basement of the state party headquarters at the time. (The Michigan GOP has since abandoned that headquarters to save money; it’s official address is now a PO Box at a UPS store.) 

Former Michigan GOP state party Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock and current Grassroots Vice Chair Marian Sheridan are among the defendants. A third, Michele Lundgren, previously said she thought she was signing a meeting attendance sheet. “I didn’t even know what an elector was,” Lundgren told a local television station, “let alone a fake elector.” 

Two others—Rose Rook of Paw Paw and John Haggard of Charlevoix—are in their eighties. Some of the crimes they are charged with carry a maximum sentence of 14 years. 

Text messages obtained by investigators reveal that the fake electors initially tried to keep their scheme secret. “I see Meshawn posted on facebook even though we were all asked to keep silent,” Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden wrote to Haggard in December 2020.

“I am not a big fan in facebook or have a computer at home,” Haggard responded. “Was she not told at the meeting to keep quite [sic].”

“Yes we all were,” Berden wrote.

One day later, Maddock and Sheridan discussed their role in the fake elector scheme on Right Side Broadcasting News. Sheridan said they had been blocked from the state Capitol, but made clear that the fake certificates had been sent to the proper authorities. 

At a Michigan Republican rally I attended in Big Rapids last month, Sheridan said she was being targeted by Nessel. She added, “I really feel like it’s domestic terrorism.”

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