UNITED STATES NEWS

Some Trump fake electors from 2020 haven’t faded away. They have roles in how the 2024 race is run

Dec 17, 2023, 10:27 PM

VIRGINIA CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nearly two years after he signed documents attempting to overturn Donald Trump’s 2020 loss in Nevada, Jim Hindle thanked everyone gathered in a historic Nevada boomtown’s commission chambers and asked them to bear with him while he learned how to oversee elections in rural Storey County.

Hindle was another replacement in what was a revolving door of county election officials across Nevada as the 2022 midterms approached. He had just unseated the interim clerk, who had stepped in after the prior clerk resigned.

But Hindle’s tenure in the heavily Republican county is part of a trend across battleground states where fake electors have retained influence over elections heading into 2024.

He is among six Republicans who were indicted this month by Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford for their alleged roles in attempting to overturn the election outcome in the swing state, which Democrat Joe Biden carried by more than 33,000 votes over the GOP president.

Hindle and the others, who pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of offering a false instrument for filing and uttering a forged instrument, coordinated with Trump’s team directly, according to transcripts of testimony before the U.S. House committee that investigated the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

Hindle told The Associated Press he will continue running local elections despite the charges, which could land him up to nine years in prison. He declined to comment further.

Wisconsin, Arizona and Pennsylvania also have fake electors who are involved in the 2024 election.

The list includes Bob Spindell, who remains on Wisconsin’s bipartisan election commission despite calls from Democrats for him to be removed. A Republican legislative leader who appointed Spindell said last week that he will not rescind the appointment, calling the fake elector scheme a “failed legal strategy” and “not a sinister plot to overturn an election.”

Spindell and the fake electors in Wisconsin agreed to a settlement this month conceding that their actions were “part of an attempt to improperly overturn the 2020 presidential election results.”

In Arizona, fake electors Jake Hoffman and Anthony Kern are Republican legislators with powerful roles. Hoffman is chairman of the Senate Elections Committee, and Kern leads the Judiciary Committee. The Arizona attorney general is investigating the role of fake electors; no one has been charged.

Hoffman’s position makes him a gatekeeper for virtually all election-related legislation under consideration. That has become especially contentious in the Western swing state where Republicans have been aggressive in trying to overturn or cast doubt on Democratic victories.

The FBI in 2022 interviewed Sam DeMarco, a member of the three-member election board in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County. Despite the subpoenas served to DeMarco and that state’s other GOP electors, they have faced no legal consequences after qualifying their electoral votes as “conditional” in case Trump had prevailed in court. DeMarco has often been critical of Trump’s influence on the state party.

Michigan is a rare example where a fake elector has lost influence due to charges. In July, the Michigan Bureau of Elections barred Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot from running any elections as the state attorney general brought criminal charges against him and 15 other Republicans for their roles as fake electors.

Burt Jones, who was a Georgia state senator at the time he was a fake elector, later won a race to become the state’s lieutenant governor. In that position, he doesn’t directly oversee elections, but can influence legislation on voting and vote-counting.

In Nevada, Storey County’s 3,750 active registered voters represent a speck of the state’s electorate. Even while Hindle and others remain in their roles as elections officials and legislators, state election officials and state and federal courts can provide checks on their authority, said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Nevada Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar’s office, which runs elections across the state, did not respond to questions about whether the indictment could affect Hindle’s elections role.

But Hindle’s influence does not stop at the county line. He is one of three fake electors involved in the state GOP’s organization of a party-run caucus in early February that is scheduled just days after the state-run presidential primary. The Nevada GOP has come under intense scrutiny for confusing voters with the dueling elections and for adopting rules that many say benefit Trump over other Republican candidates.

The Nevada GOP did not respond to a request for comment on whether the indictment affects members’ abilities to organize the caucus.

The Nevada Republican chairman, Michael McDonald, one of the indicted fake electors, has said the state party is bypassing the primary because the Democratic-controlled Legislature did not consider the Republican governor’s proposals for a voter ID requirement and other measures.

On Sunday, several of Nevada’s fake electors attended a Trump rally in Reno, where the former president thanked three of them personally, including Hindle and McDonald, while saying they were treated unfairly. He did not mention the specific charges.

McDonald introduced Trump at the rally, while encouraging the crowd to advocate and vote for Trump at the party-run caucus. He ended the speech with the same pledge he made at an October rally, before his indictment.

“You give us a fair election, I’ll give you the next president of the United States — Donald J. Trump,” he said.

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Associated Press writers Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix, Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, Joey Cappelletti in Lansing, Michigan, Rio Yamat in Las Vegas, Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Jeff Amy in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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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.

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Some Trump fake electors from 2020 haven’t faded away. They have roles in how the 2024 race is run