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What is a 'fake elector'? Jan 6 committee explains how to 'steal' a vote

Bruno Cooke June 23, 2022
what is a fake elector
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The select committee investigating the events of 6 January 2021 are into their fifth day of hearings but one of Tuesday’s revelations, regarding so-called “fake electors”, is still piquing people’s interest.

The United States house select committee was formed on 1 July 2021 and is led by Bennie Thompson (Democrat) and Liz Cheney (Republican).

By May 2022, it had interviewed more than 1,000 people. Public hearings have been taking place since 9 June, and are ongoing.

On 21 June, the committee unveiled a video of its investigation into what members of the committee refer to variously as “fake electors”, “alternate electors” and “contingent electors” – but what are they and how would a so-called “fake elector” scheme work?

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Rep Adam Schiff introduces Jan 6 committee video regarding what he calls ‘fake elector’ scheme

On Tuesday, 21 June 2022, Adam Schiff introduced listeners to the January 6 committee’s investigation into what he called “fake electors”.

“In this next segment,” he said, “you’ll hear how president Trump and his campaign were directly involved in advancing and co-ordinating the plot to replace legitimate Biden electors with fake electors not chosen by the voters.

“You’ll how hear this campaign convinced these fake electors to cast and submit their votes through fake certificates telling them their votes would only be used in the event president Trump won his legal challenges.

“Yet when the president lost those legal challenges, when courts rejected them as frivolous and without merit, the fake elector scheme continued.”

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Investigative counsel Casey Lucier discusses lawyer Kenneth Chesebro and ‘fake elector’ scheme

At the beginning of the video, investigative counsel Casey Lucier says the select committee “received testimony that those close to president Trump began planning to organise fake electors for Trump in states that Biden won in the weeks after the election”.

She also introduces Kenneth Chesebro, who went to Harvard Law School after studying communication at Northwestern University.

He’s been an appellate attorney since 1987 – almost 35 years – and specialises in cases “against corporate defendants”.

Former president Donald Trump’s White House counsel’s office apparently declared the “fake elector” plan to be “not legally sound”.

What is a ‘fake elector’ and how would the scheme have worked?

It’s important to stress at this stage that the committee hasn’t yet arrived at a verdict on whether or not Trump’s team is guilty of using – or plotting to use – “fake electors”. 

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The idea of a “fake elector” rests on the Electoral College system. In the US, citizens don’t cast votes directly for presidential candidates – the president and vice-president are both elected by the Electoral College.

In the US there are currently 538 electors. This number comprises 435 representatives, 100 senators and three electors from Washington DC.

You vote for your elector – your congressperson, your senator – and they pledge their support for a particular president. The system in the UK is similar: the electorate votes for their local MP; MPs elect party leaders.

What was the logic behind the alleged plot?

According to Casey Lucier’s summary of the “fake elector” plan, the select committee heard testimony that Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro wrote a memo “arguing that the Trump campaign should organise its own electors in the swing states that president Trump had lost”. 

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, was among those testifying about plans to organise “alternate electors”. Republican national committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel also calls them “contingent electors”. 

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The idea, according to the select committee’s investigation, was if Trump’s legal challenges regarding the election proved successful, the RNC would have “contingent” (or “fake”/“alternate” depending on who you listen to) electors ready to replace those found to be unelected.

Trump’s legal challenges weren’t successful. “Ultimately,” however, Casey Lucier says, “fake electors did meet on 14 December 2020 in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Nevada and Wisconsin.”

“The electors from these battleground states signed documents falsely asserting they were the ‘duly elected’ electors from their state,” claims the committee. They even submitted them to the national archives. You can see some of the fake certificates in the January 6 committee’s video below – skip to 7:30.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.