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Supreme Court Rules Against 'Faithless Electors'

States can make them back the winner of popular vote
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 6, 2020 9:50 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that states can require presidential electors to back their states' popular-vote winner in the Electoral College, per the AP. The ruling, just under four months before the 2020 election, leaves in place laws in 32 states and the District of Columbia that bind electors to vote for the popular-vote winner, and electors almost always do so anyway. So-called faithless electors haven't been critical to the outcome of a presidential election, but that could change in a race decided by just a few electoral votes. Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that a state may instruct "electors that they have no ground for reversing the vote of millions of its citizens. That direction accords with the Constitution—as well as with the trust of a Nation that here, We the People rule."

When the court heard arguments by telephone in May because of the coronavirus outbreak, justices invoked fears of bribery and chaos if electors could cast their ballots regardless of the popular-vote outcome in their states. The issue arose in lawsuits filed by three Hillary Clinton electors in Washington state and one in Colorado who refused to vote for her despite her popular vote win in both states. In so doing, they hoped to persuade enough electors in states won by Donald Trump to choose someone else and deny Trump the presidency. In all, there were 10 faithless electors in 2016, including a fourth in Washington, a Democratic elector in Hawaii, and two Republican electors in Texas. In addition, Democratic electors who said they wouldn't vote for Clinton were replaced in Maine and Minnesota.

(Read more US Supreme Court stories.)

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