In March 2021, American Oversight obtained copies of phony electoral vote certificates signed and submitted to the National Archives and Congress by supporters of former President Trump in seven swing states that had gone for Joe Biden: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The false certificates were part of a scheme to prevent the congressional certification of Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, 2021, in which Trump allies, pointing to lies about widespread voter fraud, sought to present the signatories as “alternate” slates of electors.
The documents drew renewed attention in January 2022 after they were covered by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Politico. The Justice Department said it was investigating the fake certificates, and the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which had also been looking into the matter, issued subpoenas to the individuals listed as “chairperson” and “secretary” of each group of alternate electors. The next month, the committee issued six additional subpoenas to connected individuals.
A now-infamous memo prepared by Trump-allied lawyer John Eastman and titled “January 6 scenario” indicated that the fake certificates were part of a six-step scheme that relied on Pence throwing out the valid electors from “7 states [that] have transmitted dual slates of electors.” In February 2022, the New York Times reported that two weeks after the election, Jim Troupis, a lawyer for the Trump campaign in Wisconsin, had received a memo setting out the strategy to overturn Trump’s loss by installing “alternate” electors in states Trump lost. According to the Times, that memo was used by Eastman and other Trump-allied lawyers as they devised the scheme.
In March, a federal judge ruled that it was “more likely than not” that Trump and Eastman had “corruptly attempted” to obstruct the Jan. 6 congressional certification, and ordered Eastman to produce more than 100 emails he had fought to keep from House investigators. More than a year and a half after the election, Eastman is still attempting to shield his communication records from the House select committee.
The fake certificates were also referenced in a draft letter prepared by Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark in December 2020 that falsely stated the department was investigating “various irregularities” in the election and would have instructed Georgia lawmakers to convene a special session to consider “issues pertaining to the appointment of presidential electors.” That same month, Trump had plotted to oust acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and replace him with Clark, a loyalist who was willing to use the department to elevate Trump’s voter-fraud myth.
In a lawsuit we filed against the Arizona Senate seeking records related to the partisan “audit” of Maricopa County’s 2020 election, we obtained documents that show Kelly Townsend, then state senator-elect, asked former Vice President Mike Pence not to accept Arizona’s valid electoral slate during the congressional certification on Jan. 6. We also obtained and published memos concerning the appointment of electors that were sent to legislative leaders in Wisconsin and Arizona in the weeks following Trump’s loss.
The fake electoral certificates are a critical piece of the coordinated, multi-state effort to subvert the will of American voters. Since obtaining copies of the bogus certificates, American Oversight has sent follow-up requests for the communications of the false electors with Trump allies and false electors in other states. In several states, we are still seeking communications between signers of the phony elector slates and proponents of Trump’s Big Lie.