Unlike most other modern democratic nations, the United States does not have a direct-election system for choosing its executive. Instead, the Electoral College serves as an in-direct method through which the people of each state technically vote for a slate of electors who are pledged to the candidate of their party on election day, not the presidential candidates themselves. We are in this period of the election cycle where a president-elect (in this year’s case, Joseph R. Biden, Jr.) is the tentative winner. However, it will not be official until the Electoral College votes, and the U.S. Congress verifies the results of that body. While it is rare, there have been multiple examples of electors not voting for the candidate they were pledged to. Instead, these “faithless electors,” usually as an act of protest, cast their vote for a person who was not in the presidential race. For example, in the 2016 presidential election, an elector pledged to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton instead voted for Bernie Sanders. While many states have laws that either fine faithless electors, or even invalidate a faithless elector’s vote, some still do not.
Those who argue that states should outlaw faithless electors claim that they violate the spirit of our democratic institutions. They contend that whatever candidate wins the popular vote in a state should automatically be entitled to receiving the electors’ votes of that state. This side may also argue that each state is given broad authority over how to conduct its elections, and that outlawing faithless electors would not be unconstitutional.
Those who oppose outlawing faithless electors argue that the Electoral College was not originally intended to always reflect popular will. Instead, they argue that the Constitution only outlines how electors are to be appointed, and nothing else. Therefore, any attempt to compel electors to vote a certain way is a violation of free speech and the First Amendment. This side may also argue that electors are generally faithful to the candidate they are pledged to anyway, and that outlawing faithless electors may prevent them from using prudence. For example, a candidate they are pledged to may become severely physically incapacitated in-between Election Day and the day the Electoral College votes, which could justify an elector to vote for someone else.
So, what do you think? Should states outlaw “faithless electors?” Students can answer Yes, they should; No, they should not; or a nuanced answer in-between!
Note: Ideal Think the Vote responses include the following:
-Address the question asked in a thoughtful and meaningful manner
-Use cited facts and constitutional arguments when appropriate to support their answers
-Are expressed in cohesive sentences and are free of distracting spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors
-They address counter-arguments and opposing concerns in a respectful manner
-They organize their answer in a manner that flows logically and reads clearly