Washington, DC – On May 13, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear two cases involving states ‘faithless electors’ where there have been attempts to penalize Electoral College delegates who fail to vote for the presidential candidate they were pledged to support. Electoral College delegates are selected by each party, and under state laws, they are pledged to cast their ballots for the candidate who carries the popular vote.
Individual states have tried to prevent “faithless elector” votes by enacting laws to remove them or fine them or both. Now, just as the presidential campaign is heating up, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear challenges to such state laws in Washington and Colorado.
The presidential electors are represented by Harvard Law Professor and Equal Citizens Founder Lawrence Lessig, his colleague at Equal Citizens Jason Harrow, and his colleagues, Sumeer Singla, Daniel Brown and Hunter Abell at Williams Kastner, and Jonah Harrison of Arête Law in Seattle.
As Robert Alexander, a CNN contributor noted, “the question before the court stems from two cases, Chiafalo v. Washington and Colorado Department of State v. Baca, both of which challenge a state’s authority to compel an elector to vote for a specific candidate. In the Chiafalo case, the four Democratic electors who chose not to vote for Hillary Clinton were fined $1,000 apiece. In the Baca case, though he was a registered Democrat, he hand wrote former Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s name on the pre-printed ballot in hopes of preventing a Trump presidency and was subsequently removed from his position. In the weeks prior to the meeting of the Electoral College in 2016, the so-called Hamilton elector movement arose. The name draws from Alexander Hamilton’s depiction of how he believed the Electoral College would work.”
In April 2020 , The Supreme Court agreed to hold arguments by telephone starting in May for a select number of cases that were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court’s public information office said it intends to provide a live audio feed of the arguments to the press, marking the first time the high court will have live audio of arguments.
However the high court rules, the cases are likely to focus national attention on Electoral College in an era when two presidential candidates have lost the popular vote but won the presidential election in the Electoral College.