How fake voters tried to give Trump the result
State Attorneys General and the House Committee Investigating the January 6 Attack on Capitol Hill delve into the role fake voters lists played in Donald Trump’s desperate effort to cling to power after his defeat in the 2020 presidential election.
Voters in seven battleground states have signed certificates incorrectly stating that Trump, not Democrat Joe Biden, won their states. They sent these certificates to the National Archives and to Congress, where they were ignored.
Now these certificates are get a second look from lawmakers as they conduct a thorough examination of the January 6, 2021 riot and the events leading up to it. More than a dozen people have been subpoenaed so far.
A look at who the voters are, how the draft unfolded and why lawmakers are now investigating:
Who are the presidential voters?
Electors are persons appointed by state parties, sometimes before general elections, to represent the electors. The job is often assigned to current and former party officials, state legislators, and party activists.
The winner of the state’s popular vote determines party voters who are sent to the Electoral College, which meets in December after the election to certify the White House winner.
There is very little guidance in the Constitution on the qualifications of voters, except that no senator, representative, or person holding federal office can be appointed to that office. After the Civil War, the 14th Amendment also clarified that state officials “who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States” cannot be electors.
There are currently 538 voters, matching the number of U.S. senators and representatives, plus three for the District of Columbia, which gets those electoral votes even though it has no electoral representation in Congress.
Once chosen as an elector, members meet in their respective capitals on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December to certify the winner of the statewide popular vote. Each voter gets two votes: one for the president and one for the vice president according to a process defined by the 12th Amendment.
To vote, each voter signs six certificates. One is sent to the President of the Senate, two to their state’s Secretary of State, and two to the National Archives. The last is sent to a local judge.
How does Congress count electoral certificates?
After the certificates are sent, Congress meets on January 6 at 1 p.m. for a joint session to tally the votes in the Electoral College. The process is mandated by federal law and, until 2020, was mostly routine.
The current vice president — in 2021, it was Mike Pence — presides over the session and opens each state’s voting certificates in alphabetical order.
Once the certificates are opened, they are given to four scrutineers – two from the House and two from the Senate – who announce the results. Scrutineers include one representative from each party and are appointed by the Speaker of the House. At the end of the count, the vice-president announces the name of the next president.
The certification of the results on January 6, 2021 was knocked down like a crowd of Trump supporters fought in front of the police and burst into the Capitol, halting the process and forcing lawmakers and Pence into hiding. Biden’s victory in the Electoral College was certified in the early morning hours of Jan. 7 after it took police all day to clear out the rioters and secure the building.
So what were Trump’s allies trying to do?
On December 14, 2020, as Democratic voters from major swing states gathered at their state government headquarters to vote, Republicans who would have been voters had Trump won also gathered. They claimed to be legitimate voters and submitted fake Electoral College certificates declaring Trump the winner of the presidential election in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin,
These certificates from the “substitute electors” of seven states have been sent to Congress. Several of Trump’s Republican allies in the House and Senate have used them to justify delaying or blocking certification of the election during the joint session of Congress.
On two of the certificates, from New Mexico and Pennsylvania, the bogus voters added a disclaimer that the certificate was submitted in case they were later recognized as duly elected and qualified voters. This would only have been possible if Trump had won one of dozens of legal challenges he filed in the weeks following the election. Instead, he lost them all.
But lies about voter fraud by the former president and his allies ended up having serious consequences beyond Electoral College certification, fueling the deadly insurgency on Capitol Hill that day.
Why didn’t it work?
The attempt to throw the election was unsuccessful, in part, because of age-old safeguards. While Congress and the National Archives received the forged certificates, the only ones that were counted in the joint session were the official voter rolls from each of the swing states in question.
When Pence was pressured by Trump allies to introduce unofficial pro-Trump voters to cast doubt on Biden’s Jan. 6 victory, he refused. And though Republicans in Congress contested several of the electoral college votes, none succeeded. Lawmakers finally certified the results and Biden’s victory.
But the insurgency and Trump’s brazen campaign to launch the results led to a bipartisan effort in Congress to update laws governing the Electoral College to ensure that no future president can abuse the process to stay in power.
What does the January 6 Committee want to know?
The House wants to determine if there was any fraudulent activity in the preparation of the forged Electoral College certificates. They also study the people who planned and implemented the efforts in each of the seven states. The New Mexico and Michigan attorneys general are conducting their own investigations.
At least 20 people linked to the fake voter scheme have been subpoenaed by the House panel, including former Trump campaign staff, state party officials and state lawmakers.
While the fake voter push was public at the time, lawmakers want to know more about the involvement of Trump’s White House and members of his campaign, in part to determine whether crimes may have been committed.
“This was a coordinated effort — a multi-state effort,” California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democratic member of the committee, told MSNBC shortly after the first subpoenas were issued to the bogus voters. “The false documents are similar and we would like to know who coordinated this and who asked them to do it.”