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2020 Elections Center

States can force Electoral College members to support popular-vote winners, Supreme Court rules

  • The 538 people who cast the actual votes for president in December as part of the Electoral College can be required to vote for the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state, the Supreme Court ruled.
  • The ruling was a defeat for advocates of changing the Electoral College, who hoped a win would force a shift in the method of electing presidents toward a nationwide popular vote. But it was a win for state election officials who feared that rogue electors would cause chaos.
  • A small group of 2016 "faithless electors" — who did not vote for the candidate who won their state — had claimed that states can regulate only how electors are chosen, not what comes later.

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Supreme Court rules Electoral College voters can't go rogue

Just months before the presidential election, the U.S. Supreme Court is telling electors in the Electoral College who determine the ultimate winner that they can't go rogue and not vote for the candidate who wins the state's popular vote. The decision essentially blocks a handful of would be independent-minded members from deciding the next president. State officials have said these so-called faithless lectors threaten the integrity of American democracy by undermining the will of the electorate and opening the door to corruption. But the plaintiffs in the case said the Constitution requires them to exercise independent judgment to prevent unfit candidates from taking office. The justices on Monday unanimously ruled in favor of Washington state and Colorado, which had imposed $1000 dollar penalties on several faithless electors who defied pledges in 2016 to vote for the winner of their states' popular vote, Democrat Hillary Clinton. Republican President Donald Trump defeated Clinton by a margin of 304 to 227 Electoral College votes despite losing the popular vote nationally by about 3 million votes. In 2016, 10 of the 538 electors cast ballots for someone other than their state's popular vote winner, an unusually high number that could have changed the outcome of five of the 58 previous U.S. presidential elections.
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