On July 6th The Supreme Court made a surprising 9-0 decision regarding the Electoral College; they agreed that state laws for punishing “rogue voters” (those that would fail to vote for a state’s popular vote winner in presidential elections) are constitutional. This may not seem important at first glance; those laws already have existed for quite some time now. A total of 32 states (as well as the District of Columbia) have laws against “faithless electors”. However, until 2016, no state had ever chose to enforced them.
This recent decision by the Supreme Court does three things:
- Confirms that “nothing in the Constitution prevents States from requiring Presidential electors to vote for the candidate chosen by the people.” – Justice Clarence Thomas
- It preemptively makes it so these laws cannot be challenged as being constitutional or not.
- It gives states the courage to enforce these laws without fear of them being shot down in court.
There is one possible problem that should be noted, however. According to CNN, Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig argued that “if the court allowed states to step in to penalize the electors, it could have unexpected consequences. For instance, a state might feel free to take more drastic steps, including passing laws to bar an elector to vote for a candidate who has not released a copy of their tax returns.”
Nonetheless, the decision is a good attack in advance that most likely prevented a serious constitutional argument that could have been stuck in court for years. With a critical election coming up, getting this decision out of the way before these court arguments took place was a big win for democracy. Hopefully it helps electors stay true to their word, and true to the American people they are sworn to represent.