The US Supreme Court legalized the unspoken rule that electors from a particular state must vote for a presidential candidate who won in that state. Those who disobey can be punished.
If members of the United States Electoral College cast their ballot to the wrong presidential candidate for whom the majority of the state’s voters they represent have voted, then the state may punish them for that. This decision was made on Monday, July 6, by the US Supreme Court.
Judges of the Supreme Court sided with the state of Washington, considering a lawsuit by three electors who refused to vote in 2016 for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, although she defeated her Republican opponent Donald Trump in that state.
Hoping by their example to inspire their colleagues not to vote for Trump, Peter Ciafalo, Levy Guerra and Esther John voted for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who did not participate in the presidential election. Washington authorities fined them, after which the electors protested this in court, but lost.
Electors are an important part of the complex US electoral system. Voting for a particular presidential candidate, American voters determine the members of the electoral college of their state, which consists of 538 people. To become the head of state, a candidate needs to enlist the support of at least 270 members of the electoral college.
According to the Supreme Court, cases where electors voted against the will of state residents are extremely rare in US history – 180 electors from more than 23,000 did so during the presidential and vice-president election campaigns from 1796 to 2016. Seven of these cases occurred in the 2016 campaign – five electors then refused to vote for Hillary Clinton, two for Donald Trump.