The Supreme Court today announced that it would hear arguments about the “faithless elector cases.” As SCOTUS blog writes:
In Chiafolo v. Washington and Colorado Department of State v. Baca, the justices will consider the constitutionality of “faithless elector” laws, which require presidential electors to vote the way state law directs. The petitioner in the Washington case, Peter Chiafolo, was elected as a presidential elector when Hillary Clinton won that state’s popular vote in 2016 but voted for Colin Powell instead, which led to a $1,000 fine for violating a state law that required him to vote for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates who won the majority of the popular votes. The respondent in the Colorado case, Micheal Baca, was removed as an elector after he attempted to vote for John Kasich, even though Clinton won the popular vote in Colorado as well. Chiafolo told the justices that the question has real-world importance in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election: In 2016, he noted, “ten of the 538 presidential electors either cast presidential votes other than the nominees of their party” or tried to do so but were replaced. A similar swing would “have changed the results in five of fifty-eight prior elections,” he added.
As Fox News explains:
About 30 states require presidential electors to vote for the states' popular vote winner, and electors almost always do so anyway. Under the Constitution, the country elects the president indirectly, with voters choosing people who actually cast an Electoral College ballot for president. It takes 270 votes to win.
There were faithless electors in two states in 2016 in different situations. As the Washington Post writes about Washington:
But when the electoral college convened after the election, all three voted for former Secretary of State Colin Powell for president, and split their votes for vice president among Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
Congress counted their votes. According to the voting advocacy group FairVote, “Congress has accepted the vote of every vote contrary to a pledge or expectation in the nation’s history that has been transmitted to it — a total of more than 150 votes across twenty different elections from 1796 to 2016.” As in each of those elections, the 2016 defections did not change the outcome of the race.
But Chiafalo, Guerra and John were in violation of Washington law, which requires electors to support their nominee of their party or be subject to a civil fine of up to $1,000.
And then the Colorado:
It was considering the Colorado secretary of state’s attempt to throw out the vote of Micheal Baca, who was pledged to vote for Clinton but cast his vote for Republican John Kasich of Ohio. Baca envisioned a plan where Republicans might ditch Donald Trump in favor of someone else.
All the schemes to steal the election from President Trump by voting for a moderate Republican in the electoral college failed. The Supreme Court could provide clarity to prevent similar schemes in the future.