LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is asking federal prosecutors to open a criminal investigation into 16 Republicans who submitted false certificates stating they were the state’s presidential electors despite Joe Biden’s 154,000-vote victory in 2020.

Nessel, who is a Democrat, disclosed Thursday that her office had been evaluating charges for nearly a year but decided to refer the matter to the U.S. attorney in western Michigan.

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“Under state law, I think clearly you have forgery of a public record, which is a 14-year offense, and election law forgery, which is a five-year offense,” she told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. But the Justice Department, she said, is best suited to probe and potentially prosecute.

The U.S. attorney’s office didn’t immediately respond to an email from the Associated Press seeking comment early Friday.

Nessel alleged a “coordinated effort” among Republican parties in several battleground states including Michigan to push so-called alternate slates of electors with fake documents. She said she wants federal authorities to make an evaluation for possible charges.

“Obviously this is part of a much bigger conspiracy,” she said.

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On Jan. 8, 2021, the Office of the Federal Register — which coordinates certain functions of the Electoral College between states and Congress — notified Michigan’s elections director and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s chief lawyer in an email that it received unofficial, signed certificates from GOP “electors” who had not been appointed by the Democratic governor.

The Michigan GOP didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment early Friday.

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office last month gave the email to a U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

When Michigan’s electors cast 16 votes for Biden in December 2020 following the certification of his 2.8 percentage point win, a separate group that included some Republican state House members tried to enter the state Capitol with Donald Trump’s Electoral College candidates. They were turned away by state police.

The invalid certificates also were mailed to the U.S. Senate, Benson, and the federal court for western Michigan, according to a memo a GOP official wrote. Two Republicans did not sign the documents and were replaced.

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