GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Included in civil lawsuit paperwork is an image of the document at the center of the criminal charges filed by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office alleging 16 people tried to misdirect Michigan’s electoral votes in 2020.
The defendants, among them Wyoming Mayor Kent Vanderwood, each face eight felony charges including forgery and election law forgery. Other defendants include Republican National Committeewoman Kathy Berden, former Michigan Republican Party Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock and Shelby Township Clerk Stanley Grot.
The charges have no immediate effect on Vanderwood’s status as mayor. He has not offered any public comment.
In a Wednesday social media post, the city of Wyoming addressed questions it has gotten about recalling or removing Vanderwood from office:
“Under state law, recalls of elected city officials are handled by the Kent County Clerk’s Office. When the term of office exceeds two years, recall petitions may not be filed until the elected official has been in office for at least a year. Reasons for recall can only include conduct during the current term of office. For more information, contact Kent County Clerk’s Office at 616.632.7650,” the city wrote. “For removal, state law provides a process for the governor to remove an elected city official for misconduct in their current office or conviction of a felony.”
The Michigan Attorney General’s Office says that on Dec. 14, 2020, the 16 defendants signed a document trying to award Michigan’s electoral votes to former President Donald Trump rather than President Joe Biden.
The situation was already the focus of a civil lawsuit. The documents for that case included an exhibit that showed the illegitimate elector document proclaiming Trump and Vice President Mike Pence the recipients of Michigan’s electoral votes. The document lists Berden as the chair of the Michigan Electoral College and was signed by the 16 defendants. The document was sent to the U.S. Senate and National Archives.
In the civil lawsuit, the two pages of the defendants’ document are separated by an image of the envelope in which the document was sent. The copy above has removed that page for ease of reading, which is why the Page ID jumps from 46 to 48.
Video from December 2020 shows at least one of the defendants in the criminal case trying to get into the state Capitol to present the Republican votes. They were unsuccessful. The certified electors for Democrats had police escorts in the building to cast their votes for Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
The 16 defendants will be arraigned in Ingham County. Court records show Vanderwood — and the other 15 defendants — are scheduled for arraignment Aug. 10.
After word came Tuesday of the criminal case, local Democrats were quick to condemn Vanderwood’s involvement in the situation:
“The actions of Mayor Vanderwood do not reflect the honest values of the people of Wyoming. We are a community of people who prioritize the rule of law, who support our democracy and seek to uphold the Constitution,” state Rep. John Fitzgerald, D-Wyoming, who previously who served on the Wyoming City Council, said in a statement. “These allegations — attempting to overturn Michigan’s lawful election — not only demonstrate poor judgment, but they also describe actions that are un-American, dangerous, and wholly inappropriate for any person in a position of public trust to perpetrate. Therefore, I am calling on Mayor Vanderwood to, at minimum, recuse himself from all official duties until the legal proceedings have concluded and a verdict has been rendered on all eight felony charges levied against him.”
Rep. Phil Skaggs, D-East Grand Rapids, called for Vanderwood’s resignation.
Rep. Matt Hall, R-Richland, who leads Republicans in the House, didn’t comment specifically on Vanderwood but issued a statement saying in part that “the charges brought by Attorney General Nessel are serious. She bears the burden of proving them in a court of law and demonstrating that they are not politically motivated.”
It seems unlikely that all of the cases will be resolved before the 2024 election, so they will be a talking point for both sides in the coming election cycle. Democrats are sure to highlight them as an example of election deniers. Republicans will point to the charges as politically motivated prosecutions, like they have with the indictments and investigations into Trump.