The ‘Alternate Electors’ Plot to Overturn the 2020 Election

American Oversight’s investigation of efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election resulted in the release of false electoral vote certificates that were submitted by Trump supporters in seven swing states.

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.

Updates

In the Documents: New Details About the Origins of the Arizona Senate’s Discredited Election ‘Audit’

March 7, 2022
Further review of records obtained by American Oversight in our investigation of the “audit” of Maricopa County’s 2020 election reveal a letter from a state senator to then-Vice President Pence asking that he not certify Biden’s victory.

Legislative Leaders in Arizona, Wisconsin Were Sent Memos Regarding the Ability of State Lawmakers to Alter Selection of Electors Following 2020 Election

February 1, 2022
The memos, obtained by American Oversight, suggest that in November 2020, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann and Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos sought legal advice about whether legislators had the power to alter the selection or actions of electors after the election had taken place.

December 2020 Emails to Arizona Lawmakers Reveal Election Deniers’ Plans for Scanning and Throwing Out ‘Invalid’ Ballots

January 24, 2022
The emails obtained by American Oversight, which outlined a plan to overturn Trump’s election loss in Arizona, also included members of Trump’s legal team.

Fake Electoral Certificates Obtained by American Oversight Draw Renewed Scrutiny

January 12, 2022
The phony documents were submitted to Congress by Republicans in several states who sought to overturn Biden’s 2020 election victory by casting the state’s electoral votes for Trump instead.

The Latest Attempt by Wisconsin Legislative Leaders to Undermine Election Has Been in the Works for Months

June 17, 2021
Emails uncovered by American Oversight reveal an early April meeting between legislative leaders and one of the former police officers hired to investigate the 2020 election in Wisconsin.
Show all updates

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