THE NEUTRAL ZONE
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that states may “enforce an elector’s pledge to support his party’s nominee — and the state voters’ choice — for President,” thereby curbing the likelihood of “faithless electors.” In this case, a “faithless elector” is defined as an elector who casts a vote for someone other than their party’s nominee, according to FairVote, a nonpartisan group that advocates for electoral reform. Currently, 32 states and the District of Columbia require electors to vote for a pledged candidate. Of those states, 15 remove, penalize, or cancel the votes of “faithless electors.”
The ruling focused on two cases, one in Washington and one in Colorado. In Washington, $1,000 fines against electors Peter Chiafalo, Levi Guerra, and Esther John after they violated their pledges to support Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election were ruled as lawful. In Colorado, a 2019 ruling against Colorado’s cancellation of an elector’s vote was reversed. Colorado delegate Michael Baca and Washington delegate Bret Chiafalo were among the defendants in the case. In an NPR interview, Baca stated that the idea was to “reach across the aisle” in 2016 to find a candidate some Republican delegates would be willing to support other than then-candidate Donald Trump. Chiafalo and two other Democratic delegates in Washington voted for Colin Powell, while Baca attempted to vote for then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Though both the conservative and liberal Justices were in agreement in their ruling, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas stated that they would have used different reasoning. Justice Thomas wrote that “the Constitution simply says nothing” about the states’ power to require electors to vote for the candidates chosen by the people, and therefore that power should be given to the states rather than the federal government.
Richard H. Pildes, a law professor at New York University, said, “The court’s decision strikes a blow for legal and political stability and sanity. Every American understands themselves to be voting for the persons running for president, not for members of the Electoral College, and it is now clear that states can enforce that understanding.”
Larry Lessig, an attorney for the Washington electors, stated in court papers that a swing of 10 electors would have been enough to alter the results of five previous presidential races. Lessig added, “Obviously, we don’t believe the court has interpreted the constitution correctly. But we are happy that we have achieved our primary objective — this uncertainty has been removed. That is progress.”
In unanimous decision, Supreme Court rules ‘faithless electors’ not able to vote as they wish – MSNBC – 7/6/2020
In a win for election officials and supporters of the Electoral College, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “faithless electors” must vote the will of the voters and as their states direct.
Supreme Court rules states can sanction or remove ‘faithless’ presidential electors – Fox News – 7/6/2020
The Supreme Court on Monday upheld state laws requiring those chosen for the Electoral College to back the popular winner in their state’s presidential race, a rebuke of a group of so-called “faithless” presidential electors in Washington and Colorado who sued after they were sanctioned for voting contrary to pledges they took before becoming electors.
Supreme Court puts an end to faithless electors – Mother Jones – 7/6/2020
This has two consequences. First, states can join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and make it stick. Under the terms of the NPVIC, electors are required to vote for the winner of the popular vote, but only if states with a majority of electors have joined the compact. Today’s ruling makes this legal and enforceable. Second, it puts an end to “faithless” electors, who vote for Ron Paul or Colin Powell or whoever they think makes the cutest protest statement.
The Faithless Electors Decision Doesn’t End the Possibility of Constitutional Crisis – Reason – 7/6/2020
This decision reduces the likelihood that a Presidential election will turn on a faithless elector. But it does not eliminate it altogether. There are, after all, some states that do not compel electors to support the nominee of the party that wins the popular vote. Moreover, the decision does not address what happens if a state has a law that requires electors to vote in a particular way but the state certifies a faithless vote anyway.
Chris Stigall on Twitter, 7/6/2020: This was a 9-0 vote! This NEVER happens anymore. A huge blow to the burn it all down radicals. The electoral college remains in tact, thank God
Elie Honig on Twitter, 7/6/2020: Completely correct and logical ruling here from the Supreme Court. Whatever party you support, it’s lawless when electors unilaterally defy the will of voters in their states.
Jonah Goldberg on Twitter, 7/6/2020: Unpopular opinion: If we’re going to have an Electoral College maybe there should be room for faithless electors exercising their judgment. Otherwise, we can replace the electoral college with a very cheap algorithm (I’m still in favor apportioning electoral votes by state).
James P. Bradley on Twitter, 7/6/2020: The Supreme Court upholding state laws requiring those chosen for the Electoral College to back the popular winner in their state’s presidential race is a stunning victory for American jurisprudence and for @realDonaldTrump in November!