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Supreme Court decides states can overrule Electoral College votes

Those who change their votes can be fined

OW Staff Writer | 7/9/2020, midnight

In a July 6 unanimous decision, the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can overrule members of the Electoral College who break a pledge to vote for a state’s popular vote winner.

This could be big news for the upcoming November election, as electors would be forced to uphold their state’s popular vote.

In 2016, 10 of the 538 presidential electors attempted to vote for someone other than their pledged candidate. That year, the college selected a candidate who did not win the popular vote.

Three presidential electors in Washington state voted for Colin Powell in 2016, rather than Hillary Clinton and one voted for anti-Keystone XL pipeline protestor Faith Spotted Eagle. A $1,000 fine was upheld by the state Supreme Court

“The Constitution’s text and the nation’s history both support allowing a state to enforce an elector’s pledge to support his party’s nominee—and the state voter’s choice—for president,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan.

Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with Kagan, writing that “nothing in the Constitution prevents states from requiring presidential electors to vote for the candidate chosen by the people.”

There is an elector for every member of the House of Representatives, the Senate plus an additional three for people who live in the District of Columbia. It takes 270 votes to get a majority of the Electoral College. If there is a tie or nobody gets to the majority, then the election goes to the House of Representatives.

The framers of the Constitution, 244 years ago, formed the Electoral College. The college forms every four years for the sole purpose of electing the president and vice president of the United States.

Following the nationwide presidential election, each state counts its popular votes according to that state’s laws to designate presidential electors. In 48 states and D.C., the winner of the plurality of the statewide vote receives all of that state’s electors; in Maine and Nebraska, two electors are assigned in this manner and the remaining electors are allocated based on the plurality of votes in each congressional district. Electors are typically required by state law to vote for the winning candidate in that state.