Trump's "Fake Electors” Are Facing a Legal Firestorm

Arizona is the latest state to file charges against alternate electors from the 2020 election.

What’s happening: An Arizona grand jury charged 18 allies of former president Donald Trump with participating in an alleged “fake electors” scheme during the 2020 election.

  • Context: While Trump’s legal challenges against 2020’s election results were pending, his cohorts prepared alternate votes for the Electoral College in case their claims succeeded. However, the indictment alleges they attempted to certify illegitimate votes in Arizona despite the ultimate failure of the challenges.

  • Who’s involved: Several co-defendants allegedly involved in the Arizona scheme, including lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows, have also been charged or pled guilty in a Georgia case targeting Trump’s election response. Eleven others are “fake electors” themselves.

Why it matters: Five states launched criminal cases or investigations related to Trump’s 2020 Electoral College strategy. Legal experts are divided about whether the plan was unlawful; although using alternate electors is not new, it is unprecedented to face prosecution for it.

Past contested elections: Skeptics point to alternate electors used by Republicans in the 1976 election and by Democrats in 1960 with JFK.

  • Safeguards: John F. Kennedy’s supporters submitted alternate electoral votes, which allowed Kennedy to be formally elected after a ballot recount. Trump’s allies wanted the same assurances when 2020 recounts took place.

Zoom out: One co-defendent in the Arizona case oversees election integrity efforts at the Republican National Committee (RNC). After 2020’s election controversies, the RNC established “election integrity directors” in 13 states to ensure free and fair elections.

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