Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Tuesday that she has filed charges against 16 people who signed paperwork falsely claiming that President Donald Trump had won the 2020 election as part of a scheme to overturn the results.
Presidents are technically voted in by slates of electors from each state who cast their votes for the candidates selected by their states’ popular votes. In December 2020, as Trump tried to overturn the results of the election, his allies readied alternative slates of electors in several states.
They appear to be the first charges filed against fake electors.
The announcement came the same day Trump said he has been notified that he is the target of an investigation by a Washington-based grand jury examining the Jan. 6, 2021, riot and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The 16 people being charged in Michigan allegedly met in the basement of the state's Republican Party headquarters and signed multiple certificates claiming they were “the duly elected and qualified electors for president and vice president of the United States of America for the state of Michigan,” Nessel said in recorded remarks.
“That was a lie. They weren’t the duly elected and qualified electors, and each of the defendants knew it,” she said.
Some of the electors tried to deliver the false documents to the state Senate but were turned away, she said; the documents were later sent to the U.S. Senate and the National Archives "with the intent that Vice President Pence would overturn the results of the election, using the false electoral slate," she said.
Nessel said the "false electors" are being charged with eight felony counts each, including forgery.
"The false electors' actions undermine the public's faith in the integrity of our elections and not only violated the spirit of the laws enshrining and defending our democracy, but we believe also plainly violated the laws by which we administer our elections in Michigan and peaceably transfer power in America," she said.
The 16 people include former state GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock and state Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden. Michele Lundgren, who was also charged, has told NBC affiliate WDIV of Detroit that she thought she was signing an attendance sheet for a meeting.
"I didn't even know what an elector was, let alone a fake elector," she told the station.
Berden and Lundgren did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
When reached for comment, Maddock called the charges "political persecution," saying the country and judges would "put a stop to this to restore our judicial system."
"The democrats know they can’t beat Trump in 24 so they have to use lawfare to try to imprison their opponents," Maddock wrote in an email to NBC News.
Nessel had referred the case of Michigan’s 16 electors to the Justice Department, but the nonprofit news service Bridge Michigan reported this year that she was reopening her investigation because federal authorities had not filed charges yet.
Nevada’s attorney general, Democrat Aaron Ford, declined to prosecute the fake electors in that state, while a Georgia prosecutor investigating Trump and his allies has told false electors they could face criminal charges.