They called it “The Signing.” Eleven fake electors for President Donald Trump convened at the state Republican Party headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, on December 14, 2020. They broadcast themselves preparing to sign the documents, allegedly provided by a Trump campaign attorney, claiming that they were the legitimate representatives of the state’s electoral votes.
By that time, Trump’s loss in the state – by less than 11,000 votes – had already been certified by the state’s Republican governor affirming that Joe Biden won Arizona in the 2020 presidential election.
But in the weeks that followed, five of Arizona’s 11 “Republican electors,” as they called themselves, pushed an unusually vocal campaign, compared to other fake electors from states across the country, for Vice President Mike Pence to reject the legitimate Democratic slate of electors.
Instead, they called on Pence to accept them or no electors at all, according to a CNN KFile review of their interviews, actions and comments on social media.
Much attention has been drawn to the fake elector schemes in Georgia and Michigan where local and state authorities charged some participants for election crimes this past summer. But in no other state were there fake electors more active in publicly promoting the scheme than in Arizona.
Now those fake electors find themselves under new legal scrutiny as the Arizona attorney general announced a broad investigation into their actions and their public campaign that could open the electors up to increased legal liability, according to experts who spoke with CNN.
“They were more brazen,” Anthony Michael Kreis, an expert on constitutional law at Georgia State University told CNN. “There is no difficulty trying to piece together their unlawful, corrupt intent because they publicly documented their stream of consciousness bread trail for prosecutors to follow.”
Attorney General Kris Mayes, in an interview with CNN, said she has been in contact with investigators in Michigan and Georgia and the Department of Justice.
“It’s robust. It’s a serious matter,” Mayes, a Democrat, said of her ongoing investigation. “We’re going to make sure that we do it on our timetable, applying the resources that it requires to make sure that justice is done, for not only Arizonans, but for the entire country.”
All 11 electors took part in multiple failed legal challenges, first asking a judge to invalidate the state’s results in a conspiracy theory-laden court case and then taking part in a last-ditch, desperate plea seeking to force Pence to help throw the election to Trump. The cases were dismissed.
Of the 11 fake electors in Arizona, five were the most publicly vocal members advocating the scheme in the state: Kelli Ward, the chairperson of the state party and her spouse, Michael Ward; state Rep. Anthony Kern, then a sitting lawmaker; Jake Hoffman, a newly elected member of the Arizona House; and Tyler Bowyer, a top state official with the Republican National Committee.
Each of these five publicly pushed for the legitimate electors to be discarded by Pence on January 6, 2021. One of the fake electors, Kern, took part in “Stop the Steal” rallies and was photographed in a restricted area on the Capitol steps during the riot at the Capitol.
“The Arizona false electors left a trail here that will surely interest prosecutors,” Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University who previously served as the special counsel to the general counsel at the Department of Defense, told CNN.
Electors, a part of the Electoral College system, represent the popular vote in each state. When a candidate wins a state, the party’s designated slate of electors gets to participate in the Electoral College process. The electors meet in a ceremonial process and sign certificates, officially casting their vote for president.
CNN reached out to all of the electors, but only received comment from two of them.
The most publicly vocal of the fake electors, Kelli Ward called the group the “true electors,” and provided play-by-play updates on the Arizona Republican Party’s YouTube. Falsely saying the state’s electoral votes were “contested,” even though legal challenges to the count had been dismissed, she urged supporters to call on Arizona’s state legislature to decertify the state’s results.
“We believe our votes are the ones that will count on January 6th,” she said in one interview on conservative talk radio, two days after signing the fake documents.
Ward’s comments were echoed in tweets by her husband, Michael, also an elector and a gadfly in Arizona politics known for spreading conspiracy theories. In a post sharing a White House memo that urged Pence to reject the results from states that submitted fake electors, Michael Ward hinted at retribution for Republicans who failed to act.
“My Holiday prayer is that every backstabbing ‘Republican’ gets paid back for their failure to act come Jan 20th!” he wrote in a tweet on December 22.
Another prominent elector was the RNC Committeeman Bowyer, who on his Twitter account pushed false election claims and conspiracies.
“It will be up to the President of the Senate and congress to decide,” Bowyer tweeted after signing the fake electors documents.
In repeated comments Bowyer declared the decision would come down to Pence.
“It’s pretty simple: The President of the United States Senate (VP) has the awesome power of acknowledging a specific envelope of electoral votes when there are two competing slates— or none at all,” wrote Bowyer in a December 28 tweet.
“We don’t live in a Democracy. The presidential election isn’t democratic,” he added when receiving pushback.
A spokesperson for Bowyer said that he was simply responding to a question from a user on what next steps looked like and maintained that there was precedent for a competing slate of electors.
Bowyer urged action in the lead up to the joint session of Congress on January 6.
The spokesperson for Bowyer said he had not directly been contacted by Mayes’s office or the DOJ.
Newly elected state representative Hoffman sent a two-page letter to Pence on January 5, 2021, asking the vice president to order that Arizona’s electors not be decided by the popular vote of the citizens, but instead by the members of the state legislature.
“It is in this late hour, with urgency, that I respectfully ask that you delay the certification of election results for Arizona during the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021, and seek clarification from the Arizona state legislature as to which slate of electors are proper and accurate,” wrote Hoffman.
In interviews, Hoffman repeatedly argued no electors be sent at all because “we don’t have certainty in the outcome of our election,” and to contest Democrat electors if they were sent.
Then-state Rep. Kern, who lost his seat in the 2020 election, spent his final weeks in office sharing “stop the steal” content and participating in their rallies. He said he was “honored” to be a Trump elector.
“On January 6th, vice President Mike Pence gets a choice on which electors he’s going to choose,” Kern told the Epoch Times in an interview in December.
“There is no president elect until January 6th,” he added.
Kern hadn’t changed his tune in an interview with CNN.
“Why, why would you think alternate electors are a lie?,” Kern said.
Kern repeatedly promoted the January 6, 2021, rally preceding the Capitol riot. Kern was in DC that day and shared a photo from the Capitol grounds as rioters gathered on the steps of the Capitol.
Later Kern was seen in a restricted area of the Capitol steps during the riot. There is no indication he was violent, and he has not been charged with any crime.