Faithless Electors: Supreme Court Rules They Must Comply With Pledge

The Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling on faithless electors Monday. In two cases before the court, the justices ruled that electors must abide by the candidate they have pledged to vote for; if that candidate wins the popular vote in the state, they must vote for them.

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The most visible faithless elector case was activist Michael Baca, who in 2016 attempted to push electors to vote for an alternative candidate instead of Trump. The court ruled against that practice in an 8-0 vote. Justice Sotomayor recused herself from the case because she knew one of the plaintiffs.

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In the second case, Colorado Department of State v. Baca, Electoral College member Micheal Baca was part of a group called the “Hamilton electors,” who attempted to convince 2016 electors who were pledged to Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump to come together behind an alternative candidate to prevent a Trump victory.

Almost immediately after Trump emerged as the winner early in the morning on Nov. 9, 2016, activists such as Baca, angry about the defeat of Clinton, began a campaign to try to pressure the 306 Electoral College members pledged to vote for Trump to vote for someone else when the electoral votes were to be cast. Trump ended up receiving 304 votes in the Electoral College, well over the threshold of 270 needed to win. Clinton received 227 votes in the Electoral College, after winning 232 in the election…

…When the electors met to vote on Dec. 19, 2016, Baca crossed out Clinton’s name on his ballot and wrote in then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who also ran for president in the 2016 cycle.

The state refused to accept the vote and removed Baca as an elector, replacing him with another elector who voted for Clinton.

The other case in Washington (Chiafolo v Washington), held that the state could fine electors who failed to vote according to the law. Three electors in 2016 failed to vote for the state’s winning candidate, and were summarily fined $1000 each (and another, a 4th, that did not participate in the lawsuit). The Supreme Court held that the state had the right to do so in a 9-0 vote.

What does it mean? In 2016, there were 10 faithless electors. If an elector is allowed to vote for whomever they please instead of the one to whom they are pledged, it could become a free-for-all  in which changing the electoral votes before the date they are authorized could bring chaos.

The Western Journal noted,

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 would not vote for Clinton were replaced in Maine and Minnesota.

Upholding the electoral college was a significant Supreme Court decision.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote,

“…after an election where the apparent outcome based on the popular vote is a small margin of victory for one candidate, there would be concerted campaigns to change that result by influencing a few electors, and that could be achieved by influencing just a few electors.”

Thankfully, the court said no to such an outcome. In November, we will see whether or not electors will adhere to the ruling, or whether chaos will surpass it.  The electoral college is the only way large cities cannot rule over rural areas in the nation – it equalizes the vote.

H/T Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children


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Faye Higbee

Faye Higbee is the columnist manager for Uncle Sam's Misguided Children. All of her posts on Conservative Firing Line are also posted on Uncle Sam's.

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