A Nevada grand jury on Wednesday indicted six Republicans who submitted certificates to Congress falsely declaring Donald Trump the winner of the 2020 presidential election in their state, making Nevada the third to seek charges against so-called “fake electors.”
“We cannot allow attacks on democracy to go unchallenged,” Nevada’s Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford said in a statement Wednesday. “Today’s indictments are the product of a long and thorough investigation, and as we pursue this prosecution, I am confident that our judicial system will see justice done.”
The fake electors — involved in the state GOP or Clark County GOP — have been charged with offering a false instrument for filing and uttering a forged instrument. Those two categories of felonies have penalties that range from one year up to either four or five years in prison.
The Nevada indictment came the same day that 10 Republicans in Wisconsin who posed as electors for Trump settled a civil lawsuit, admitting their actions were part of an effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory.
The indictments in Nevada are just the latest to come out of investigations in several states into the activities of Republican electors.
Michigan’s Attorney General filed felony charges in July against 16 Republican fake electors, who would face eight criminal charges including forgery and conspiracy to commit election forgery, though one had charges dropped after reaching a cooperation deal. The top charge carried a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
Sixteen fake electors also have been charged in Georgia, three of which were also charged in August alongside Trump in a sweeping indictment accusing them of participating in a wide-ranging scheme to illegally overturn the results of the presidential election. They have pleaded not guilty.
Democratic attorneys general in New Mexico and Arizona also are investigating the role of fake electors in their states.
In December 2020, six Republicans signed certificates falsely stating that Trump won Nevada and sent them to Congress and the National Archives, where they were ultimately ignored. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol looked into the role these fake electors in key battleground states took in Trump’s attempt to cling to power after his 2020 defeat.
Among the fake electors is Nevada GOP chairman Michael McDonald, who has pushed to bypass the state-run presidential primary to nominate a Republican presidential nominee, instead opting for a party-run caucus, which would require voter ID and paper ballots.
He has remained a staunch ally of Trump, opening for the former president at a rally in Las Vegas by saying, “You give us a fair election, I’ll give you the next president of the United States _ Donald J. Trump.” Trump and his attorneys also had a direct hand in the planning and execution of the fake elector scheme, including a conference call with McDonald, transcripts released last year show.
McDonald said in a brief phone interview that he had spent much of the day checking on people close to him who had been at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, when a person opened fire on campus hours earlier. He referred all questions about the indictment to a lawyer who he said represented those indicted. The lawyer did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Clark County GOP Chair Jesse Law was also indicted hours after he announced his candidacy for the Nevada state Assembly, along with Nevada GOP Vice Chair and Storey County clerk Jim Hindle, who runs elections in the rural county. Neither returned voice messages left Wednesday requesting comment.
Ford had testified in support of a bill that would have criminalized future fake electors. That passed Nevada’s Democratic-controlled Legislature but was vetoed by Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo, who said there should be “strict punishments” for those trying to undermine elections but that the proposed punishment between four and 10 years in prison was too harsh.
Wisconsin group settles lawsuit, admits Biden won in 2020
In Wisconsin, the 10 Republicans who posed as fake electors for Trump also submitted paperwork falsely declaring he had won the battleground state in 2020.
Federal prosecutors who have charged Trump with trying to overturn his election loss have said the multi-state fake elector scheme originated in Wisconsin.
Under the legal settlement agreement announced Wednesday, the fake electors acknowledged that Biden won the state, withdrew their filings and agreed not to serve as presidential electors in 2024 or any other election where Trump is on the ballot.
The 10 fake electors agreed to send a statement to the government offices that received the Electoral College votes saying that their actions were “part of an attempt to improperly overturn the 2020 presidential election results.”
The settlement marks the first time that any Trump electors have revoked their filings sent to Congress purporting that Trump had won in seven battleground states.
The settlement was announced by Law Forward, Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection and the Madison-based Stafford Rosenbaum law firm.
“Americans believe in democracy and the idea that the people choose their leaders through elections,” said Jeff Mandell, one of the attorneys who brought the case on behalf of Democratic voters, including two who served as Biden electors. “The defendants’ actions violated those bedrock principles. We brought this case to ensure that they are held accountable.”
There is no known criminal investigation ongoing in Wisconsin. Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul has signaled that he is relying on federal investigators to look into what happened in Wisconsin, while also not ruling out a state probe.
Democrats brought the lawsuit last year seeking $2.4 million in damages from the 10 fake electors. They also sued two of Trump’s attorneys, including Kenneth Chesebro, who has already pleaded guilty to other charges stemming from the 2020 election in Georgia.
The Wisconsin case was scheduled to go to a trial by jury in September 2024, two months before the presidential election.
Under the deal, the fake electors don’t pay any damages or attorneys fees and there is no admission of wrongdoing or liability.