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Supreme Court Upholds 'Faithless Elector' Laws

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States can punish Electors who substitute their judgment for those of the voters.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that states have the right to hold Electors accountable. The ruling was just issued an hour ago and the reporting is thin.
NPR‘s Nina Totenberg (“Supreme Court Rules State ‘Faithless Elector’ Laws Constitutional“) apparently wrote up her report ahead of time, because it scarcely refers to the ruling:
The U. S. Supreme Court upheld Monday state laws that remove or fine Electoral College delegates who refuse to cast their votes for the presidential candidate they were pledged to support. The vote was unanimous.
The court majority said that to do otherwise would risk chaos, potentially putting the outcome of the 2020 election in doubt, and opening up new opportunities for manipulation and corruption.
[…]
Flawed as the Electoral College system may be, at the oral arguments in May, the justices expressed concern about tinkering with laws that bind the delegates to vote for the popular vote winner in their states.
Justice Samuel Alito observed that if the popular vote is close, the possibility of “changing just a few votes” [in the Electoral College] would rationally “prompt the losing party … to launch a massive campaign to try to influence electors, and there would be a long period of uncertainty about who the next president was going to be.”
Similarly, Justice Brett Kavanaugh alluded to what he called “the chaos principle of judging, which suggests that if it’s a close call…we shouldn’t facilitate or create chaos.”
Thirty two states have some sort of “faithless elector” law, but only 16 of those remove, penalize, or simply cancel the votes of the errant electors. The 16 are: Michigan, Maine, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Indiana, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Washington, California, New Mexico, South Carolina, Oklahoma and North Carolina.
While the writers of the Constitution originally conceived of the Electoral College as a deliberative body of delegates with discretion as to who they would vote for, that notion quickly evaporated as political parties began to emerge, and by 1796 the selected electors were pledged to cast their ballots for the winner of the popular vote.
CNN‘s Ariane de Vogue (“Supreme Court says states can punish Electoral College voters“) does the same, although she does manage a wee quote from the opinion:
The Supreme Court said Monday that states can punish members of the Electoral College who fail to fulfill a pledge to vote for a state’s popular vote winner in presidential elections.
[…]
The vote count was 9-0.
“Today, we consider whether a State may also penalize an elector for breaking his pledge and voting for someone other than the presidential candidate who won his State’s popular vote. We hold that a State may do so,” Justice Elena Kagan said.
Three presidential electors in Washington state, for example, voted for Colin Powell in 2016 rather than Hillary Clinton and one voted for anti-Keystone XL pipeline protester Faith Spotted Eagle. A $1,000 fine was upheld by the state Supreme Court.
In Colorado, the legal outcome was different when Micheal Baca sought to vote for John Kasich instead of Clinton.
Baca’s vote was rejected and he was removed and replaced with a substitute who voted for Clinton. Baca was referred for potential perjury prosecution, although no charges were filed. He filed suit, and ultimately won when the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals held that while the state does have the power to appoint electors, that does not extend to the power to remove them.
During oral arguments, Frodo Baggins, a hobbit from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, became a part of the court’s historical record. In a line of hypothetical questioning, Justice Clarence Thomas used Baggins as a case study.

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