US Supreme Court restricts ‘faithless electors’ in presidential contests

Published July 7, 2020
A pedestrian holding an umbrella walks along the steps to the Supreme Court Building, as a series of rulings are issued at the United States Supreme Court in Washington on July 6. — Reuters
A pedestrian holding an umbrella walks along the steps to the Supreme Court Building, as a series of rulings are issued at the United States Supreme Court in Washington on July 6. — Reuters

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Monday refused to free “faithless electors” in the complex Electoral College system that decides the outcome of presidential elections from state laws that force them to support the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote.

The justices unanimously rejected the idea that electors, who act on behalf of a state in the Electoral College vote that occurs weeks after voters go the polls, can exercise discretion in the candidate they back.

The decision erased a potential complicating factor in the Electoral College as President Donald Trump seeks re-election on Nov 3 against Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

The court ruled in favor of Washington state and Colorado, which had imposed penalties on several “faithless electors” — so named because they defied pledges in 2016 to vote for the winner of their states’ popular vote, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the ruling “reaffirmed the fundamental principle that the vote of the people should matter in choosing the president.”

State officials have said faithless electors threaten the integrity of American democracy by subverting the will of the electorate and opening the door to corruption. The plaintiffs had argued that the Constitution requires them to exercise independent judgment to prevent unfit candidates from taking office.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2020

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