Fake electoral documents under new scrutiny as Trump prepares for Arizona visit

As former President Donald Trump prepares for a visit to Arizona, there has been renewed scrutiny of fake electoral vote certificates sent by Trump supporters in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

Trump was originally set to hold a press conference on the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, but said he would instead address the election and the riot at the Jan. 15 rally in Florence, Ariz. Trump has continued to baselessly claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him, with some prominent Arizona Republicans pushing the same conspiracy theory.

While Republican Gov. Doug Ducey certified the election with Joe Biden as its winner in December 2020, other members of the party, including Kelli Ward, chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party, pushed a fake electoral certificate stating that Trump had won the state. The document was sent to the National Archives, which processes Electoral College certificates before sending them on to Congress.

Kelli Ward, chair of the Arizona Republican Party, stands at a podium during an outdoor press conference.
Kelli Ward, chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party, at the Maricopa County Elections Department on Nov. 18, 2020, in Phoenix. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

The Arizona GOP’s official social media accounts promoted its false document and those of other states with a tweeted video captioned “The signing” on Dec. 14 and a YouTube video posted the following day in which Ward said that the “true electors for the presidency” had met the previous day to cast their votes.

“Congress is adjourned,” Ward tweeted a few weeks later as pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to block certification of the election. “Send the elector choice back to the legislatures.”

In addition to Arizona, fake electoral certificates were sent by Trump supporters in Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The certificates were published by the watchdog group American Oversight last March, and began circulating again this week after reporting from MSNBC and Politico, as the House committee looking into the events of Jan. 6 continues its investigation into how much state-level efforts to subvert the election were coordinated.

One of the 11 Republicans who signed the Arizona document was Jake Hoffman, who had just won a state legislature race. While Hoffman was running for the seat in 2020, he was banned from Twitter and the marketing firm he ran was banned from Facebook for participating in what was referred to as a pro-Trump “troll farm” where teenagers posted in favor of Trump and promoted conspiracy theories about the election and the coronavirus. The effort was reportedly affiliated with Turning Point USA, a major conservative youth organization based in Arizona.

A person holds up the certification of Electoral College votes for the state of Arizona as another person looks at it.
The certification of Electoral College votes for the state of Arizona is unsealed during a joint session of the House and Senate at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

With the documents receiving renewed scrutiny this week, Arizona NBC affiliate KPNX asked Hoffman about signing Arizona’s on Wednesday.

“So in unprecedented times, unprecedented action is ... there is no case law, there is no precedent that exists as to whether or not an election that is currently being litigated in the courts has due standing,” Hoffman said. “Which is why we felt it appropriate to provide Congress and the vice president with dueling opinions.”

A second group, identifying itself as “The Sovereign Citizens of the Great State of Arizona,” also sent a slate of fake electoral votes to the National Archives, prompting a cease-and-desist letter from the office of Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs for its use of the official Arizona seal.

Arizona has been ground zero for election-related conspiracies, with a partisan “audit” of the vote in populous Maricopa County dividing Republicans in the state. At an October hearing in the U.S. House on the much-maligned Maricopa ballot inquiry, Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., refused to say Biden won the election.

Rep. Andy Biggs speaks during a House hearing.
Rep. Andy Biggs at a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on Oct. 7, 2021. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)

The belief that Biden is not a legitimate president is now mainstream among most Republicans, as a Yahoo News/YouGov poll released last week found that a vast majority of Trump voters (75 percent) falsely believe the election was “rigged and stolen,” while just 9 percent of them think Biden “won fair and square” — down from 13 percent last January.

Trump has endorsed candidates for the state’s top offices that have said the 2020 election wasn’t legitimate, including former television journalist Kari Lake for governor, who has said she wouldn’t have certified the 2020 election results. He has also thrown his support behind state legislator Mark Finchem — who attended the Jan. 6 rally at the Capitol — for Arizona secretary of state. Finchem has consistently pushed the notion that the election was stolen from Trump while supporting the Maricopa “audit.”

“The Maricopa County 2020 election cannot be allowed to stand. It must be decertified and set aside,” Finchem said at a Trump rally in Iowa in October.

Ward, Lake, Finchem and Biggs are all set to speak at Trump’s rally on Saturday.