Stand up for the facts!
Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.
I would like to contribute
If Your Time is short
An aide for Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said Johnson meant to say Democrats from multiple states have objected to past elections.
Johnson went on social media and highlighted several situations in which Democrats have objected to election results — none of which match the original claim.
For instance, in Hawaii in 1960, there were electors from both parties casting votes while a recount was taking place. The recount settled which party won, and there was no dispute when Electoral College votes were counted.
It’s been three years since a group of Republicans gathered at the state Capitol in Madison, with armed guards, trying to cast electoral votes for then-President Donald Trump, despite not being the official electors for the state and even though Trump lost.
But U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is still defending their actions — even after the group in a court filing acknowledged the group’s actions were used to try to overturn the election.
In a Dec. 11 interview on CNN, Johnson was asked if Robert Spindell, who serves on the Wisconsin Elections Commission and was one of the fake electors, should resign from his position for participating in the scheme.
Johnson said Spindell shouldn’t resign, there was an "active court case" and there were "all kinds of irregularities in Wisconsin in the 2020 election."
"In order to make sure that the case wasn’t determined to be moot, they had to have an alternate slate of electors just like Democrats have done repeatedly in all kinds of different states," Johnson said. "There’s nothing untoward about what they did. There was nothing illegal about what they did. They were just an alternate slate of electors."
Kaitlan Collins, host of "The Source wuth Kaitlan Collins" on CNN, pushed back, asking whether he meant they did nothing wrong.
"These folks did nothing different than Democrats have done in many states," Johnson said.
Collins then asked whether a person who participated in the fake electors scheme should remain on a state board.
"Democrat electors have done that repeatedly," Johnson said, ignoring the question. "It’s happened in different states."
Is Johnson right that that Democrats have also used alternate slates of electors "repeatedly in all kinds of different states"
In a word: No.
When we asked Johnson’s office to back up the claim, which created a lot of conversation on social media, spokesperson Kiersten Pels said "the senator meant that Democrats have ‘repeatedly’ been denying and challenging elections for decades and cited the below examples in a tweet response to CNN."
But that’s not what Johnson said, and it’s not what viewers heard. If anything, it’s an acknowledgement that, at best, the senator misspoke.
The response Pels referred to included four examples. We’ll take a look at them, through the prism of the claim Johnson made on CNN.
They fall short. For instance, only one of the four even involves a slate of electors.
Johnson asserted: "In the 1960 election, Democrats in Hawaii chose an alternative slate of electors, allowing JFK to be certified as the winner."
That election, in which Democrat John F. Kennedy defeated Republican Richard Nixon, is one of the most memorably close presidential elections in U.S. history.
Here is some background from a Aug. 25 Politico article, which sought to debunk the same sort of comparison, which other Republicans were advancing.
In December 1960, Hawaii’s election results were still in doubt. Nixon was leading by 140 votes with a recount underway. At the same time, presidential electors were meeting to cast their ballots, as law requires. Hawaii electors for both Nixon and Kennedy met separately to cast their votes for their respective candidates and sent them to Washington, D.C.
The recount put Kennedy ahead by roughly 115 votes, giving him the state. The results were then certified and a new slate of Electoral College certificates were signed and sent to Washington.
But the Hawaii electors were chosen, on the date prescribed by law, while the recount was underway and the result was still in question. In Wisconsin, the Republican fake electors met after a Trump-backed recount failed. A few days after they met the state supreme court ruled Joe Biden as the winner in Wisconsin.
So, contrary to Johnson’s assertion, it was not the alternate slate of electors that allowed Kennedy to be chosen. It was the result of the recount. What’s more, Nixon himself — then the vice president — had slates of electors from both parties before him, and chose the Democratic one after the Hawaii recount was completed and certified for Kennedy.
Johnson asserted: In 2005, Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones led a group of 31 representatives in objecting to the certification of Ohio’s electors. Those 31 include Jim Clyburn, Sheila Jackson Lee, Barbara Lee, now-Sen. Ed Markey, Benny Thompson and Maxine Waters.
Johnson has the facts right, but applies them incorrectly to support his CNN claim. The Democrats objected to a rightfully-chosen slate of electors. They did not offer an alternate slate of electors.
Johnson asserted: "In 2016, Democrat electors from Washington state and Colorado signed onto an attempt to block Trump from winning an Electoral College majority."
When Trump won in 2016, defeating Hillary Clinton, many Democrats were upset at the results.
After the election, Politico reported in Nov. 2016, some Democrat electors were trying to rally support for other electors to not vote for Trump — this was what was termed "rogue electors" at the time. Likewise, some electors considered not voting for Clinton in states Clinton won.
Again, this is not a slate of fake electors.
Johnson’s final assertion: "In 2017, Reps. Jamie Raskin, Pramila Jayapal, Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, Raúl Grijalva, Maxine Waters, and Jim McGovern, all objected to electoral votes for Trump."
As in 2005, when the formal certification process was underway in Congress, some Democrats in the House objected to the electoral votes that were cast for Trump.
Biden, then vice president, presided over the joint body, heard the objections and at one point told Jayapal, who objected to Georgia’s vote certificate, "it is over."
Again, this did not involve a slate of fake electors.
Finally, it is worth noting that after the 2020 election many Republicans objected to certifying various electoral votes for Biden. Indeed, that was part of the overall scheme — to have alternate slates of electors put in front of then-Vice President Mike Pence, so he could accept them instead of the legitimate ones.
It’s worth noting Johnson will always be connected with the issue, based on a text exchange that was revealed by the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack at the capitol.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Sean Riley, a Johnson aide, texted Chris Hodgson, a Pence staff member, saying Johnson "needs to hand something to VPOTUS please advise."
"What is it?" Hodgson responded.
"Alternate slate of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn't receive them," Riley said.
"Do not give that to him," Hodgson said.
Hours later the U.S. Capitol was under siege by Trump supporters hoping to delay the Electoral College vote count and overturn the election.
Johnson has changed his explanation of his involvement from having "no involvement in an alternate slate of electors" to admitting he was made aware of "Wisconsin electors" by a Dane County attorney and facilitated a text message introduction with a staff member and the attorney.
In a CNN interview, Johnson claimed Democrats have also used alternate slates of electors "repeatedly in all kinds of different states."
That is wrong. His own aide acknowledged that Johnson meant to make a different point, a more general one about Democrats objecting to past election results. And, in any case, none of the evidence Johnson provided matches the original claim.
We rate the claim False.
Editor's note: This fact check has been corrected to reflect the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled for Biden after the alternate electors met.
Twitter/X, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., on CNN, Dec. 11, 2023:
Politico, 1960 Electoral College certificates that the false Trump electors say justify their gambit, Aug. 25, 2023
CNN, Bush carries Electoral College after delay, Jan. 6, 2005
CNN, Democrats object to 2005 election, Jan. 6, 2005
Politico, Democratic presidential electors revolt against Trump, Nov. 22, 2016
CNN, 11 times VP Biden was interrupted during Trump’s electoral vote certification, Jan. 6, 2017:
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Johnson wanted to hand-deliver fake electors’ votes to Mike Pence on Jan. 6, texts reveal, June 21, 2022
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Ron Johnson now says he helped coordinate effort to pass false elector slates to Pence, but his new explanation drew a quick rebuke, June 26, 2022:
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.