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Nevada GOP ‘fake electors’ plead not guilty to felony charges in Las Vegas

The six Republicans now await a March 4 trial date for forgery charges that carry multiyear prison sentences.
Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum
CourtsElection 2020
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Six Nevada Republicans, including state party Chair Michael McDonald, pleaded not guilty in a Clark County court on Monday to felony charges brought after their attempt to pledge the state’s electoral votes to Donald Trump following the 2020 election, despite President Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

The charges came nearly three years after the defendants participated in a fake signing ceremony outside the Legislative Building in Carson City on the same day the state’s actual electoral votes were cast for Biden — part of a nationwide Trump campaign strategy to subvert 2020 election results in swing states over myriad unsupported claims of massive voter fraud.

The six fake electors are deeply ensconced in the state Republican Party leadership — aside from McDonald, they include Republican National Committeeman Jim DeGraffenreid, Clark County Republican Party Chair Jesse Law and state party Vice Chair Jim Hindle, who is also the elected clerk and treasurer in rural Storey County. The other two fake electors are Shawn Meehan and Eileen Rice.

All six appeared virtually in Clark County District Court for the arraignment. Their trial date is set for March 4.

Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, announced the grand jury indictments of the six fake electors nearly two weeks ago. Each is charged with offering a false instrument for filing and uttering a forged instrument for submitting fraudulent documents to state and federal officials, including presenting themselves as “duly elected and qualified electors” in paperwork submitted to the National Archives.

Attorney General Aaron Ford sits in a courtroom during court proceedings at the Clark County Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas on Monday, December 18, 2023. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Each charge carries a minimum sentence of one year and a maximum of four to five years, meaning the fake electors could be sent to prison for up to nine years if they are found guilty. 

Read here for more on the indictments and Ford’s investigation into the fake electors.

Despite the criminal charges, McDonald has continued to closely embrace Trump. He appeared at a Trump campaign rally in Reno on Sunday, telling the crowd to “cast your ballot for Donald J. Trump.” McDonald has previously described himself as neutral in the primary, but other candidates and political groups, such as the pro-Ron DeSantis Never Back Down super PAC, have criticized the Nevada GOP for adopting caucus rules that favor Trump.

The affection goes both ways. In his Reno speech, Trump lashed out at the criminal justice system in Nevada, saying “they played dirty” and lamenting the charges against McDonald — who is in the federal government’s crosshairs as well, having testified to a grand jury as part of a larger Department of Justice probe into the former president’s orchestration of the nationwide fake elector plot.

The Nevada fake electors’ pleas played out similarly to those in Michigan, where each of the 16 defendants pleaded not guilty.

There, Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel has focused her case on the fake electors — like Ford — but indicted them on eight counts each rather than two. The state dropped charges against one fake elector after reaching a cooperation deal.

The Nevada charges are narrower in scope. Ford has said the state’s existing laws do not “directly” apply to the conduct of the fake electors, and in the spring, he advocated for a proposed law that would explicitly criminalize the act of submitting a false slate of electors. But his office sought the charges related to forgery before a three-year statute of limitations would have expired this month.

In Georgia, meanwhile, eight of the state’s fake electors took immunity deals from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office before charges were brought. The Georgia indictment is much broader and includes Trump himself. Three of the state’s 16 fake electors were ultimately charged — they also pleaded not guilty.

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