3 indicted in ‘fake electors’ scheme among Arizona delegates to RNC

The stage at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland is empty after party Chair Reince Priebus walked off during protests on the floor on the first day of the convention, July 18, 2016. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – Three of the Arizona Republicans indicted as “fake electors” for their roles in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election will serve as delegates at the Republican National Convention in July. And they are defiant.

Arizona Republicans who picked them for the honor were well aware of the charges.

“The voters of America, whether they be Republican or Democrat, are not stupid. And they see what’s happening to President (Donald) Trump, they see what’s happening to Anthony Kern here in Arizona,” state Sen. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, said by phone.

Three days after a Maricopa County grand jury indicted him and 17 others on felony charges, delegates to the state GOP convention gave Kern the most votes of any candidate for at-large delegate to the national convention at which Trump will accept the presidential nomination.

“That kinda tells you something,” Kern said. “People know who I am, they know I’m a fighter. I’m a member of the Arizona Freedom Caucus,” said Kern, elected to the Legislature in 2014, “But they know the indictment is nothing but a sham.”

State Sen. Jake Hoffman of Queen Creek and Nancy Cottle, who chaired the slate of electors for Trump in 2020, will be in Milwaukee next month with Kern and 40 other Arizona delegates to cast votes for the GOP’s 2024 nominee.

Kern, Hoffman and Cottle and other Trump electors signed documents that claimed that he’d won the state’s 11 electoral votes, even though President Joe Biden had carried the state by more than 10,000 votes.

Arizona Sen. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, speaks in 2023 about ranked-choice voting. (File photo by Paula Soria/Cronkite News)

Arizona Sen. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, speaks in 2023 about ranked-choice voting. (File photo by Paula Soria/Cronkite News)

Each of the 11 Trump electors was charged with nine felonies related to trying to subvert the election, including conspiracy, fraud and forgery. All of the defendants pleaded not guilty.

Democrats have castigated Republicans for letting anyone serve as a convention delegate after allegedly committing such crimes.

“MAGA Republicans, including three RNC delegates, used our state as a testing ground for election denialism and conspiracy theories last cycle because they cared more about Donald Trump than the will of Arizona voters,” Arizona Democratic Party Chair Yolanda Bejarano told Cronkite News by email.

Trump won Arizona’s primary with 79% of the vote in March, so he’ll get all of the state’s GOP delegates in Milwaukee.

Despite multiple allegations by the former president and many of his allies, and a prolonged recount in Maricopa County, fewer than 200 cases of potential voter fraud were identified out of 3 million ballots – not nearly enough to change the outcome in Arizona.

Hoffman and Cottle did not respond to multiple requests for comment about their roles as RNC delegates.

“Let me be unequivocal, I am innocent of any crime, I will vigorously defend myself, and I look forward to the day when I am vindicated of this naked political persecution by the judicial process,” Hoffman said in a statement the day after his indictment.

The Arizona GOP called the charges a “blatant and unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial power.”

Defenders say the accused were fulfilling their constitutional duties, preparing an “alternative” slate of electors in case pending court challenges could overturn the outcome.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, said in a brief interview at the Capitol that the electors were “Republican volunteers” who, from what she was told, were advised to follow this “strategy.”

Kern, seeking the nomination to replace Lesko in Congress in a district that includes Peoria, Sun City and other parts of the northwest Valley, said the indictment has only propelled his campaign.

“Trump is going to win the presidency, and Anthony Kern is going to win Congress,” Kern said, shrugging aside polls that show him with low single-digit support in a crowded primary.

Trump himself was convicted on 34 felony counts related to hush money payments made to an adult film actress ahead of Election Day in 2016. His sentencing in a New York court is set for July 11, four days before the four-day Republican convention begins.

Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, talks about a bill in January 2024. (File photo by Harris Hicks/Cronkite News)

Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, talks about a bill in January 2024. (File photo by Harris Hicks/Cronkite News)

Trump’s conviction, along with three pending criminal cases against him in federal court and the “fake electors” cases in Arizona and other states, have fueled Republican complaints that biased prosecutors have engaged in partisan “lawfare.”

“The people see through it,” said Josh Barnett, a Republican running for Arizona Senate, pointing to Trump’s slight lead in Arizona polls and a donation surge after his conviction.

Republicans see a double standard by prosecutors and Democrats in the fake electors case.

Kern and others point to the 1960 election as precedent for what Trump’s allies did in Arizona.

In Hawaii, tallies from a close race initially showed a win for former Vice President Richard Nixon. Democrats sent “unofficial” elector ballots to Congress alongside the certified Republican slate, pending a recount that showed that Democrat John Kennedy had won. The governor then certified the Democratic slate.

Kern also noted that some House Democrats objected, unsuccessfully, to Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. No senators joined the objections. Biden, presiding as vice president, rejected the challenges and Congress certified Trump’s election as president.

Nothing in the Republican rules, or law, precludes someone under indictment – or convicted of a felony – from serving as a convention delegate.

If anyone thinks otherwise, Kern said, they “need to read the Constitution.”

“They can’t just mimic what CNN says or Cronkite News says,” he added. “They need to know the law and know what’s really at stake here.”

News Digital Reporter, Washington, D.C.

Grey Gartin expects to graduate in May 2025 with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and mass communication and political science. Gartin has worked as a reporting intern at Arizona Capitol Times, a production intern at KTAR News and an editor at The State Press.

Keetra Bippus(she/her)
News Digital Reporter, Washington, D.C.

Keetra Bippus expects to graduate in May 2026 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication and computer science. Bippus has interned as a reporter for AZ Big Media and Queen Creek Sun Times. She also reported for State Press Magazine and Cronkite Borderlands Initiative.