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Electoral College case goes to the Supreme Court

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  • Electoral College case goes to the Supreme Court

    The Supreme Court is going to hear shortly a case to blow up the Electoral College and the 12th Amendment to the Constitution. It's not a surprise that some people at some point would try to protest this institution and tradition that goes back to the beginning of our country. Today, each state has it's laws that directly connects the states electors to vote for the will of the popular vote in that state.

    "Supreme Court set to hear case challenging role of state electors"

    BY DAVID GUTMAN

    SEATTLE TIMES

    Bret Chiafalo and Esther “Little Dove” John want to blow up the Electoral College.

    In this, they are not unique. Lots of people don’t like the Electoral College, which has led to the last two Republican presidents winning office despite finishing second in the popular-vote count.

    But Chiafalo and John actually have a plan to blow it up, a plan that has advanced all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The hitch: It’s a long shot. And, if they only get halfway through the plan, as seems very possible, it has the potential to throw the 2020 election into chaos, granting immense power to choose the next president to 538 unaccountable, virtually anonymous officials.

    Chiafalo and John were two of Washington’s “faithless electors” in 2016. Tasked with casting their Electoral College ballots for Hillary Clinton, who handily won Washington state, they refused. Now they and a third faithless elector are in a long-running legal battle to assert the right of presidential electors to vote for whomever they want for president, no matter what candidate their state’s voters choose.

    In 2016, Chiafalo, John and Levi Guerra, in an attempt to stop Donald Trump from assuming the presidency, cast their Electoral College ballots not for Clinton but for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, hoping they could persuade Republican electors to abandon Trump and settle on a moderate Republican.

    They failed. No Republican electors supported Powell.

    And, because all of Washington’s electors had signed a pledge to support the candidate that got the most votes, Chiafalo, John and Guerra were fined, under state law, $1,000. (Guerra, 23, of Grant County, has since joined the Marines and could not be reached for comment. A fourth Washington elector, Robert Satiacum, also did not cast his vote for Clinton, but, although he has yet to pay his fine, he did not appeal it.)

    For three and a half years, they have been fighting that fine through the court system. On Wednesday, their battle will reach the highest court in the land. At stake is much more than a $1,000 fine. Rather, it’s a question that’s never been definitively answered in the more than 230 years since the Electoral College was created: Can presidential electors vote for whomever they want, or can states ensure they follow the voters’ will?

    Washington’s Legislature, after the 2016 election, made its law stricter still: No longer would “faithless electors” be punished with just a $1,000 fine. Now, under state law, electors are removed and replaced with an alternate if they do not cast their vote for the candidate who won the state. A similar law in Colorado will also be considered by the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Thirty-two states plus the District of Columbia require electors to vote for the candidate that voters chose, although most of those states have no mechanism for enforcing their law, according to FairVote, a nonpartisan electoral reforms group.

    Arguing on behalf of Washington, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson writes that if the three faithless electors prevail, it would “profoundly undermine public confidence in the value of participating in our democracy.”

    If states have no authority over electors, Ferguson writes, electors could sell their vote or do the work of a foreign power, and they could not be removed.

    “These 538 individuals are empowered to implement the people’s will, not to thwart it,” Ferguson writes in his brief to the Supreme Court. “Theirs are not the only votes that matter.”
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