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‘Alternate’ electors won’t change presidential outcome

December 17, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Republicans in several battleground states put up their own sets of electors for President Donald Trump. This sets the stage for dueling slates of electors on Jan. 6, where Vice President Mike Pence decides whether to accept or reject them.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Partly false. Republicans in a handful of battleground states are trying to appoint themselves as “alternate electors” who cast votes for Trump, but their votes aren’t official, and their competing slates won’t deny President-elect Joe Biden the presidency. Pence’s role on Jan. 6 is to open and tally electoral college votes, not decide whether or not they are valid.

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THE FACTS: As presidential electors across the United States formally affirmed Biden’s win on Monday, a misleading theory emerged on social media claiming Republicans in battleground states could save the day for Trump.

“Georgia Republican legislature put up their very own seat of 16 Electors for President Donald J. Trump setting the stage for dueling slates of electors going into January 6th where Vice President Mike Pence decides to accept or reject!” claimed one Facebook user. “HERE WE GO!”

The conservative website The Gateway Pundit also reported on Republicans casting so-called procedural ballots in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, claiming the swing states were still being contested.

In fact, more than 25 states (including these four battleground states) and the District of Columbia have certified their election results with Biden as the victor. The Democratic president-elect won the election with a total of 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

The Republican “electors” who cast alternate votes on Monday were not designated by any state official and don’t currently have any legal status.

The next step is on Jan. 6, when Congress will meet to accept the electors’ votes. Some members of the House of Representatives say they plan to object to this. They need to find a Republican senator to potentially force a vote in Congress. If they do, the House and Senate would spend two hours debating separately and hold a vote that would require majority support in both chambers to pass.

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Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this week privately asked his caucus not to do that, the AP has reported.

Even if they do, such a proposal to overturn Biden’s election win by rejecting his electors is doomed in the House, which has a Democratic majority. Several Republican senators have also signaled they wouldn’t go along with an effort to overturn the election results. Trump simply doesn’t have the votes to change anything, according to AP reporting.

Pence will preside over the joint session in Congress on Jan. 6, but federal law stipulates his role is to open and count electoral votes, not weigh in on whether they are valid.

There is “zero chance such a maneuver by Pence or the Republicans will succeed if they are bold enough to try this,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told the AP.

Such a move would be destined to fail after courts in several states rejected Trump’s unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud over the past month.

“I see a lot of drama ahead, but I see nothing other than an outcome of Joe Biden winning the presidency January 6 and taking the oath on January 20,” said Robert Alexander, an electoral college expert and professor of political science at Ohio Northern University. “I think there’s just a lot of wishing going on there that’s not going to happen.”

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536