Posted by 13 May 2020
With the U.S. facing another spirited presidential election contest, the Supreme Court is considering whether states can punish “faithless electors.”
Under the U.S. system, voters do not vote directly for the person they want as president. Instead, they vote for electors who then cast votes for president. In every state, these electors are part of a slate that are pledged to candidates of each political party. However, some electors vote for different candidates than the ones they are pledged to vote for. Most states have laws that seek to punish these “faithless electors,” and these laws are at issue before the Supreme Court.
In 2016, there were more faithless electors than in any previous election, with ten electors in five states. Two more electors tried to vote for someone other than their pledged candidate, but were replaced.
The Supreme Court is hearing the case of three of these electors from Washington and one in Colorado. After they cast their votes for someone other than Hillary Clinton, who won their states’ popular vote, the Washington electors were fined and the Colorado elector was replaced. A federal appeals court ruled that the state could not punish them, while the Washington Supreme Court upheld their fines.
The question before the court is whether states have the power to control what electors do. States say they should be able to punish faithless electors to ensure that the voters’ will is respected. Others argue that the Founding Fathers set up a system where people choose electors who then are free to choose the best person for president, and states should not intrude upon this.
Do you think that states should be able to punish faithless electors?