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Supreme Court Rules Against "Faithless" Electors

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that states can require presidential electors to back their states’ popular vote winner in the Electoral College. The vote was unanimous.

The ruling comes just four months before the 2020 election and leaves in place laws in 32 states and the District of Columbia that bind electors to vote for the popular vote winner.

The so-called faithless electors have not been instrumental to the outcome of a presidential election as of yet but that could change in a race that may be decided by just a few electoral votes. 

The decision Monday was a loss for "faithless electors," who argued that under the Constitution they have discretion to decide which candidate to support.

Writing for the court, Justice Elena Kagan, said Electoral College delegates have "no ground for reversing" the statewide popular vote. That "accords with the Constitution as well as with the trust of the Nation that here, We the People rule." Kagan also wrote that the Constitution's framers could have explicitly required electors to have autonomy but declined to do so.

"All that they put down about the electors was what we have said: that the States would appoint them, and that they would meet and cast ballots to send to the Capitol," Kagan wrote. "Those sparse instructions took no position on how independent from—or how faithful to—party and popular preferences the electors’ votes should be. On that score, the Constitution left much to the future."

The Supreme Court heard arguments via telephone back in May because of the coronavirus pandemic and justices invoked fears of bribery and chaos if electors could cast their ballots regardless of the popular vote outcome in their respective states.

Currently 32 states have laws binding electors to cast their ballot for their state's primary vote winner. Several of those states also have laws allowing for sanctions and or fines and even immediate dismissal as an elector should they fail to do so.

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