Supreme Court says a state may require presidential electors to support its popular-vote winner; RLG attorney Tom Galvin explains

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, U.S., July 6, 2020. /REUTERS/Tom Brenner

By Robert Barnes | The Washington Post

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that a state may require presidential electors to support the winner of its popular vote and punish or replace those who don’t, settling a disputed issue in advance of this fall’s election.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court, and attempted to settle the disputed “faithless elector” issue before it affected the coming presidential contest.

The Washington state law at issue “reflects a tradition more than two centuries old,” she wrote. “In that practice, electors are not free agents; they are to vote for the candidate whom the state’s voters have chosen.”

In an opinion that referred to both the Broadway musical “Hamilton” and the HBO sitcom “Veep,” she added: “The state instructs its electors that they have no ground for reversing the vote of millions of its citizens. That direction accords with the Constitution—as well as with the trust of a nation that here, We the People rule.”

Lower courts had split on the issue, with one saying the Constitution forbids dictating how such officials cast their ballots.


“The Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling held that members of the electoral college are not free agents but duty-bound to their pledge to vote for their party’s candidate, and states are able to enforce their faithless elector laws. The members of the electoral college made a pledge to reflect the will of the people. Justice Kagan who wrote the opinion noted that faithless electors have “represented just one-half of one percent of the total” of the history of the electoral college. Because of this ruling, states such as Washington and Colorado will be able to enforce their faithless elector laws.” ~ Tom Galvin, Attorney at Rose Law Group