Fake electors get tapped as GOP convention delegates

Seven battleground states are sending fake electors and others who worked to upend the 2020 election results to represent their state parties at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, where they will officially anoint Donald Trump as their presidential nominee.

The fake electors and other election deniers identified by CNN include several who are currently facing criminal charges for their efforts in helping Trump try to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. They hail from the states that were central to that plot last presidential cycle: Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin, according to lists published by state parties and other documents obtained by CNN.

They’ve been selected to serve as national committee members, delegates or alternates with one clear task: Make Trump’s nomination official.

Their role underscores how Trump has effectively woven election denialism into the GOP’s platform. It also marks an about face for a party that, at least in the immediate aftermath of the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, sought to distance itself from Trump and his efforts to stay in power.

“Election denialism is like the price of entry now,” according to former GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a CNN contributor who served on the House Select Committee that investigated the January 6 US Capitol riot and has endorsed Biden for president in 2024.

“These people that were in the fake elector scheme, or got a mug shot, they’re now the heroes of the movement, and they’ve taken over the party,” Kinzinger added.

Anna Kelly, a spokesman for the RNC, noted that Republican activists are responsible for electing their convention representatives. “State delegations are made up of delegates elected by their peers at the state party level,” Kelly said.

From fringe elements to key players

The Arizona delegation includes three fake electors who have been charged in that state for their alleged roles in the plot, including state Sen. Jake Hoffman who was recently elected to be a Republican National Committee member. Hoffman has pleaded not guilty.

In Georgia, Amy Kremer – who helped organize the January 6 rally on the Ellipse ahead of the Capitol attack but has not been accused of any criminal activity – was chosen to serve on the Republican National Committee.

Jake Hoffman and Amy Kremer - AP
Jake Hoffman and Amy Kremer - AP

Michigan’s delegation counts four individuals facing criminal charges brought by prosecutors in that state. The group includes former Michigan GOP co-chair and fake elector Meshawn Maddock who has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Matthew DePerno, a failed candidate for Michigan attorney general who recently announced a run for the state Supreme Court, is also headed to the convention. He too faces criminal charges for allegedly plotting to access and seize voting machines. He’s denied any wrongdoing.

“They’ve gone from fringe elements of the party to, now, officially party members in good standing with perceived power,” Kinzinger said, referring to those delegates who participated in efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

The Democratic National Committee also panned the roster headed to Milwaukee.

“This kind of far-right MAGA extremism on full display in today’s GOP is exactly why voters will reject Trump this November,” said Alex Floyd, a DNC spokesperson.

High honor

Nearly 5,000 delegates and alternates are set to convene in Wisconsin for the Republican Party’s four-day confab beginning July 15 in Milwaukee. They’ll descend from all 50 states and six territories. And they’ll gather on the convention floor, sporting flamboyant hats and pledging their support to Trump.

The convention comes just months after Trump effectively remade the Republican National Committee in his image. Committee members selected Trump ally Michael Whatley to take over as party chair and Lara Trump, Trump’s daughter-in-law, now serves as co-chair. Other senior Trump campaign advisers have taken on roles with the RNC, alongside their campaign duties.

Republican National Committee co-chairs Michael Whatley and Lara Trump address the media at the Oakland County GOP Headquarters, Friday, June 14, 2024 in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. - Carlos Osorio/AP
Republican National Committee co-chairs Michael Whatley and Lara Trump address the media at the Oakland County GOP Headquarters, Friday, June 14, 2024 in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. - Carlos Osorio/AP

For the newly elected members of the RNC, the convention is a chance to gladhand and make their new role known. Their four-year term officially begins at the end of the convention. From there, they will take on responsibilities that could shape the GOP’s future spending, fundraising, primary debates and next nominating convention.

“For a lot of people, it is a high honor. You are delegate to a presidential nominating committee and taking an important step in our country’s democracy and history,” said Douglas Heye, a GOP political strategist who once served as communications director for the Republican National Committee.

This year, those positions will be held by some Republicans who nearly undermined the democratic process in 2020.

“The first conventions I was going to, character matters was a big part of Republican messaging,” Heye said. “We don’t really talk about that anymore. And this is a manifest of that.”

State cases against fake electors

Prosecutors in five of the seven hotly contested states last presidential cycle brought charges against dozens of Republicans who served as alternate electors or Trump allies who allegedly orchestrated the plot to overturn the election results.

But the cases have mostly plodded along. In Nevada, a judge recently dismissed the criminal charges against the GOP electors because of an issue about where the case was brought. At this stage, none of the four remaining state-level criminal cases is likely to be resolved before the 2024 election.

The slow progress of the criminal cases has left those who worked to overturn the last presidential election free to continue openly participating in the political process, cheered along by GOP activists, many of whom share in their baseless claims that the 2020 election was somehow rigged against Trump.

In Nevada, well before the charges were dismissed, the Republican Party selected five of the six fake electors from 2020 to attend the Republican National Convention.

New Mexico included just one of the alternate GOP electors – who has not been accused of criminal activity – in its convention delegation.

Pennsylvania is sending three fake electors to represent the state party in Milwaukee. While the GOP electors from Pennsylvania have not faced criminal prosecution, several played an active role in trying to upend the last presidential election.

That includes Thomas Carroll, a Pennsylvania attorney who represented two local county commissioners as part of a legal dispute about voting machine breaches. During the civil litigation, Carroll and the county were both sanctioned by the state’s Supreme Court for defying a court order blocking their access to the machines, but they face no criminal charges.

Remorse and defiance

To be sure, some state level Republicans who participated in the fake elector scheme after the 2020 election have since expressed remorse for their actions.

In December, the 10 fake electors from Wisconsin disavowed their attempt to overturn Trump’s defeat in 2020 and recognized the legitimacy of Biden’s victory as part of a civil lawsuit settlement. In a rare moment of accountability, they even issued a statement acknowledging that the phony certificates they signed in December 2020 were “used as part of an attempt to improperly overturn” the lawful election results.

The Wisconsin Republicans pledged not to serve as real electors in 2024 or any election when Trump is on the ballot, or to act as sham electors in any future election, as part of the civil settlement.

But it didn’t place any restrictions on other roles they could play. One of Wisconsin’s fake electors, Pam Travis, is headed to the convention as a delegate. Another, Robert Spindell, is set to serve as an alternate. Neither have been charged with any crimes.

Ahead of November, many of the 2020 fake electors have remained defiant.

“The American people are awake to the perverse weaponization of government at the hands of power-hungry Democrats, which is why people are flocking to the Republican Party, President Trump, and the principles of liberty like never before, and my election as RNC National Committeeman for Arizona is proof positive that Republicans are the Party of everyday, hard working Americans,” Hoffman, one of the Arizona fake electors, said in a statement to CNN.

Hoffman has pleaded not guilty and slammed the charges against him, telling CNN in a statement: “Let me be unequivocal, I am innocent of any crime, I will vigorously defend myself, and I look forward to the day when I am vindicated of this naked political persecution by the judicial process.”

Maddock, one of the Michigan fake electors who has pleaded not guilty, has also called the prosecution against her “politically motivated” and continues to claim that Trump won the 2020 election.  She responded to CNN’s request for comment but did not address questions about her role as a fake elector and the significance of being chosen as a delegate.

Meshawn Maddock and Matthew DePerno - USA Today Network/AP
Meshawn Maddock and Matthew DePerno - USA Today Network/AP

DePerno, also facing state charges in Michigan, shared a statement with CNN that said, in part: “You should actually do some research. So now is a good time to point out that not only are so-called ‘election deniers’ (what a dumb term) staying involved, we are planning on winning.”

In Georgia, Kremer has also parroted the lie that Trump won a state he lost by some 12,000 votes.

“We didn’t tell people to go to the Capitol. But the thing was, the people wanted to do something. So people marched to the Capitol,” Kremer said in April, according to the Associated Press. “And we all know what’s happened since then. The federal government has been weaponized against us.”

Kremer told CNN in a statement that she is “honored and excited to be part of a new generation of leadership recently elected to the RNC and am blessed to represent Georgia on the committee.”

“I look forward to working with my fellow colleagues at the RNC to secure our elections and make sure Donald J Trump is elected President in November,” she  added.

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