Two members of the electoral college from Wisconsin filed a lawsuit Tuesday against 10 Republicans who claimed they were the duly elected presidential electors from the state in 2020, even though Joe Biden won the popular vote there.
It appeared to be the first legal action against Republicans in the battleground states where supporters of former President Donald Trump sent in what they claimed were electoral votes for him, despite Biden’s statewide electoral victories. Trump urged Vice President Mike Pence to honor the Republican slates on Jan. 6 when Congress met to count the electoral votes, but Pence declined to do so.
The lawsuit, filed in state court in Wisconsin, argues that even though the Republicans were unsuccessful in having their alternate slate of electoral votes counted, “they caused significant harm simply by trying, and there is every reason to believe that they will try again if given the opportunity.”
The suit alleges that the Republican electors violated several state and federal laws. “Thus far, however, none of the fraudulent electors has been held accountable," it reads. "This lawsuit seeks to change that.”
Certificates purporting to be from Trump electors were sent to Washington by Republicans in Wisconsin and six other states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Because Biden won the popular vote in those winner-take-all states, only electoral votes for him could officially be submitted and counted.
The submissions from New Mexico and Pennsylvania contained a disclaimer saying the electoral votes should be counted if courts later determined that they were, in fact, the qualified electors from their states. No such court determinations were ever made.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Wisconsin alleges the Republicans had no legal power to take any of the actions they pursued after Biden was declared the winner. They had no authority to meet at the state Capitol, cast their votes for Trump, or send a certificate of those votes to Washington, the suit states.
The lawsuit on behalf of the Wisconsin presidential electors was filed by the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and Law Forward, a public interest law firm in Madison.
“The individuals named in this case schemed to hijack Wisconsin’s role in selecting the president of the United States and to override the will of the voters,” said Jeff Mandell, president and lead counsel at Law Forward. “We must hold them accountable for their illegal, unprecedented, and profoundly anti-democratic actions.”
Attorneys general from Michigan and New Mexico earlier this year referred the results of their own investigations to the Justice Department and suggested that submitting the Trump slates might have violated federal law. Lisa Monaco, the deputy attorney general, has said the allegations are under review.
Separately, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot is looking into whether there was a coordinated plan to send in the Trump electoral votes from those seven states. It has issued subpoenas to Republicans involved in the effort.
“We’re seeking records and testimony from former campaign officials and other individuals in various states who we believe have relevant information about the planning and implementation of those plans,” said the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat of Mississippi.