Supremes Crush Dreams of Colorado’s “Faithless Electors”

UPDATE: Statements from Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Attorney General Phil Weiser:

Secretary of State Jena Griswold:

“Today’s unanimous decision by the United States Supreme Court reaffirms the fundamental right to vote of every American and ensures that when we cast a vote for President of the United States, our voices will be heard. The will of a few unelected presidential electors should never supersede the will of the people, and today’s landmark decision rightly protects Americans’ right to vote and to self-governance. The fact that the Justices were unanimous in their decision further illustrates their realization that electors not bound to the will of the people needlessly opens up our entire election system to corruption and outside influence. I applaud the Court’s decision and am thankful that the Justices were willing to hear the case and make a determination in time for the 2020 General Election, which will give every voter the peace of mind that they will have say in who gets elected to be our nation’s next president.”

Attorney General Phil Weiser:

“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that the States, and the States alone, have the exclusive authority to appoint and, if necessary, remove presidential electors when they violate their pledges. The Court’s historic opinion ensures that presidential electors will follow State law when they cast their Electoral College ballots in presidential elections and not act as free agents. With this issue decided before the 2020 election, we can avoid uncertainty, chaos, and confusion in the Electoral College, and protect our nation’s democratic principles and system of stable governance.”

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Colorado “faithless elector” Micheal Baca.

The Denver Post reports on a unanimous 9-0 smackdown delivered by the U.S. Supreme Court to Colorado’s “faithless electors,” overturning a lower court ruling that threatened chaos in the upcoming presidential elections and helping ensure that the nation’s creaky Electoral College system holds together:

In the unanimous decision based on a Colorado case, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that nothing in the U.S. Constitution prevents states from punishing so-called faithless electors — members of the Electoral College who do not vote in accordance with the people of their state.

The decision comes four months before the next presidential election.

Colorado’s case concerned several electors who tried to vote for Republican John Kasich instead of Hillary Clinton — the state’s winner — in 2016 in an effort to keep Donald Trump from becoming president. One of the electors, Micheal Baca, was punished for his dissension.

Baca and his attorneys had argued the state had no power to punish members of the Electoral College, who are free agents with the power to vote for whomever they choose. When the case was argued before justices May 13, two questioned whether Baca could have voted for Frodo Baggins or a giraffe is he wanted to.

Former Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams was severely exercised over the effrontery of Colorado’s “faithless electors,” and today’s decision certainly represents a vindication for Williams on this matter as well as his Democratic successor who agreed on the question of whether electors could be replaced, locked up, etc. if they refuse to carry out their sworn responsibility. A contagion of faithlessness that might have arisen after the practice was legitimized would have piled yet another destabilizing factor on an already very contentious election, so everyone who comes down on the order side of the essential order versus chaos debate can breathe a sigh of relief.

With that said, the unanimous decision to provide certainty to this one component of the Electoral College shouldn’t be interpreted as a unanimous endorsement of the entire undemocratic system, which delivered Donald Trump to the White House in 2016 despite losing the national popular vote by unprecedented millions. We’re still talking about the mechanics of a system meant to unequally weight the votes of supposedly equal Americans, and that system in a much more general sense is up for a vote this November in Colorado.

If “faithless electors” endanger democracy, let’s apply the same test to the Electoral College as a whole.

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5 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. VoyageurVoyageur says:

    A mixed decision in terms of historical perspective. There is no doubt that the electoral college was originally seen as a kind of a search committee, — wise, property owning men who would select a Cincinnatus -like patriot to run the country.  

    When the college was created, there were no political parties as we now know them. The “search committee” selected the consensus choice, George Washington.

    Yet, it is even clearer that states have absolute authority in that selection.  If they wanted to allow faithless electors, they could, through appropriate legislative language.  Colorado emphatically did not so choose.

    i’m not sure the electoral college could elect a giraffe — the constitution requires a 35 year old citizen.

    But history records that in 2016, the electoral college elected a jackass to the job!

  2. bullshit!bullshit! says:

    To hell with slavery and the EC too.

  3. CDW says:

    Do electors take an oath to support the state-wide winner?  If they don't vote for the winner can their electoral vote be thrown out?

    • Awen says:

      That's exactly what happened in 2016. Yes, electors are required to take an oath, but in 2016, Wayne Williams changed it at the last minute from this:

      "I [name] do solemnly swear by the everliving God, that I will support the Constitution of the United States and of the State of Colorado, and faithfully perform the duties of the office of [elector] upon which I am about to enter.”

      to this:

      I [name] do solemnly swear or affirm that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the state of Colorado, that I will faithfully perform the duties of the office of presidential elector that I am about to enter, and that I will vote for the presidential candidates and vice-presidential candidate who received the highest number of votes at the preceding general election.”

      When Micheal Baca cast his ballot for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, it was not accepted and a new elector was sworn in on the spot.

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