RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada grand jury on Wednesday indicted six Republicans who submitted certificates to Congress falsely declaring Donald Trump the winner of the 2020 presidential election in their state, making Nevada the third to seek charges against so-called “fake electors.”
“We cannot allow attacks on democracy to go unchallenged," Nevada's Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford said in a statement Wednesday. "Today’s indictments are the product of a long and thorough investigation, and as we pursue this prosecution, I am confident that our judicial system will see justice done.”
The fake electors — involved in the state GOP or Clark County GOP — have been charged with offering a false instrument for filing and uttering a forged instrument. Those two categories of felonies have penalties that range from one year up to either four or five years in prison.
The indictments in Nevada are just the latest to come out of investigations in several states into the activities of Republican electors.
Michigan’s Attorney General filed felony charges in July against 16 Republican fake electors, who would face eight criminal charges including forgery and conspiracy to commit election forgery, though one had charges dropped after reaching a cooperation deal. The top charge carried a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
In Wisconsin, 10 Republicans who posed as electors settled a civil lawsuit Wednesday, admitting their actions were part of an effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory. Sixteen fake electors also have been charged in Georgia, three of which were also charged in August alongside Trump in a sweeping indictment accusing them of participating in a wide-ranging scheme to illegally overturn the results of the presidential election. They have pleaded not guilty.
Democratic attorneys general in New Mexico and Arizona also are investigating the role of fake electors in their states.
Ford began investigating fake electors in Nevada last month. That announcement marked a shift for the state's first-term attorney general, who previously was quiet on whether he would investigate the fake electors before saying that state law did not directly address whether he could pursue charges.
In December 2020, six Republicans signed certificates falsely stating that Trump won Nevada and sent them to Congress and the National Archives, where they were ultimately ignored. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol looked into the role these fake electors in key battleground states took in Trump’s attempt to cling to power after his 2020 defeat.
Among the fake electors is Nevada GOP chairman Michael McDonald, who has pushed to bypass the state-run presidential primary to nominate a Republican presidential nominee, instead opting for a party-run caucus, which would require voter ID and paper ballots.
He has remained a staunch ally of Trump, opening for the former president at a rally in Las Vegas by saying, “You give us a fair election, I’ll give you the next president of the United States — Donald J. Trump.” Trump and his attorneys also had a direct hand in the planning and execution of the fake elector scheme, including a conference call with McDonald, transcripts released last year show.
McDonald said in a brief phone interview that he had spent much of the day checking on people close to him who had been at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, when a person opened fire on campus hours earlier. He referred all questions about the indictment to a lawyer who he said represented those indicted. The lawyer did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Clark County GOP Chair Jesse Law was also indicted hours after he announced his candidacy for the Nevada state Assembly, along with Nevada GOP Vice Chair and Storey County clerk Jim Hindle, who runs elections in the rural county. Neither returned voice messages left Wednesday requesting comment.
Ford had testified in support of a bill that would have criminalized future fake electors. That passed Nevada’s Democratic-controlled Legislature but was vetoed by Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo, who said there should be “strict punishments” for those trying to undermine elections but that the proposed punishment between four and 10 years in prison was too harsh.
Fred Lokken, a longtime political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, said Wednesday the indictment isn’t necessarily a surprise. He said he doubts it will dissuade any backers of Trump but expects it will have an impact on undecided and independent voters.
“This is a grand jury. There’s an indictment. Prosecutors don’t get that unless there is evidence," Lokken said. "It’s a validation that what was going on was illegal and now there can be consequences.”
AP writers Kate Brumback contributed reporting from Atlanta, Joey Cappelletti contributed reporting from Lansing, Michigan and Scott Sonner contributed reporting from Reno. Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Follow Stern on X, formerly Twitter: @gabestern326.
Gabe Stern, The Associated Press