As the U.S. Electoral College made it official — again — that outgoing United States President Donald Trump had lost his bid for re-election on December 14 2020, footage posted online showed an attempt to overturn the results with a group of illegitimate “electors” in Michigan.
A group of right-wing operatives were spotted attempting to enter the state Capitol in Lansing portraying themselves as “electors,” as seen in footage posted by reporter Riley Beggin:
Beggin later identified Republican Reps. Matt Maddock and Daire Rendon as the elected officials aiding the fraudulent “electors.”
The operatives were turned back because, as mentioned, they are not electors; since President-Elect Joe Biden received more votes in Michigan than any other candidate — making him the state’s popular vote winner — he won the state’s sixteen Electoral College votes, meaning that every actual elector already in the building had already been elected by the state Democratic Party.
The stunt came the same day that anti-immigration White House staffer Stephen Miller told Fox News that a slate of “alternate electors” would be sent to various states:
The capitol building was closed not only because of health precautions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 but because, as the Detroit Free Press reported, state police warned that the building was the subject of “credible threats of violence.”
State Republican Rep. Gary Eisen added to the tension surrounding the procedure when he alluded to the attempted incursion during a radio interview, as the Detroit News reported:
Eisen said earlier there was a possible “Hail Mary” for Republicans to try Monday as Democratic electors convene at the state Capitol to cast their votes for President-elect Joe Biden. He didn’t specify what the “Hail Mary” attempt would be during the interview.
“Can you assure me that this is going to be safe day in Lansing, nobody’s going to get hurt?” radio host Paul Miller asked Eisen at the end of an 11-minute interview.
“No,” he responded. “I don’t know because what we’re doing today is uncharted. It hasn’t been done.”
But during the radio interview, Eisen described what would occur on Monday in Lansing as a “historic event” and said it “will be all over the news later on.”
In a follow-up statement later, Eisen still endorsed the fake electors, saying they intended “to participate in our democracy peacefully.” He was stripped of his committee assignments.
By comparison, Michigan’s Republican lawmakers were highly critical of Democratic Rep. Cynthia Johnson earlier in the month when she posted a video denouncing failed presidential attorney Rudy Giuliani and warning supporters of the outgoing president, “warning to you Trumpers. Be careful. Walk lightly.” Johnson, too, was stripped of her committee assignments.
The “electors” stunt was another right-wing attempt to gin up disinformation after Trump’s resounding loss to Joe Biden. Michigan was also the site of right-wing protests targeting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her efforts to stop the pandemic, to the point that members of a white “militia” gang used Facebook to attempt to carry out a plan to kidnap and execute her.
State Attorney General Dana Nessel announced on July 18 2023 that 16 people had been charged in connection with the scheme.
“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.
According to the Detroit News:
Each of the 16 electors is charged with eight felonies: two counts of election law forgery; two counts of forgery; and one count each of uttering and publishing, conspiracy to commit forgery, conspiracy to commit election law forgery and conspiracy to commit forgery.
Conspiracy to commit forgery and conspiracy to commit uttering and publishing, which carry the steepest penalties, are both punishable by up to 14 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Among the fake “electors” charged is Stan Grot, clerk for Shelby Township. As a result of his alleged involvement, Grot has been ordered not to be involved in election-related work.
Rendon, who was precluded from running for re-election in 2022 because of term limits, was arraigned on August 1 2023 on charges of conspiracy to commit undue possession of a voting machine and false pretenses. Each charge carries a maximum prison term of five years.
Another election denier, Matt DePerno — who failed to unseat Nessel in the 2022 attorney general election — was indicted along with Rendon. He is charged with undue possession of a voting machine and willfully damaging a voting machine.
Update 7/20/2023, 12:16 p.m. PST: Updated to reflect felony forgery and conspiracy charges brought against 16 people in connection with the fake “electors” scheme. — ag
Update 8/2/2023, 1:35 p.m. PST: Updated to reflect conspiracy-related charges against former state Rep. Daire Rendon as well as failed attorney general candidate Matt DePerno. — ag