Some readers may not realize it, but when we cast a vote in a presidential election, we are electing the presidential electors that were nominated by that candidate’s party, not the actual candidate listed on the ballot.
In some states, the electors appear on the ballot. But for the most part, they are nominated at state party conventions or by state party committees. When a presidential candidate wins the popular vote in a state, that party’s slate of electors will cast a vote for the victorious candidate.
Article II of the United States Constitution does not provide detailed guidance for the nomination of candidates for presidential electors. Hence, the absence of detailed guidance allows state legislatures to adopt new rules for picking electors for their state. But, in order to avoid the appearance of election tampering, those changes should be enacted prior to the election — not after the election has taken place.
On July 6, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Chiafalo et all v Washington No. 19-465 that a state may penalize “faithless electors” who break their pledge to vote for their party’s presidential nominee. The legal challenges were filed by Electoral College appointees from Colorado and the state of Washington who refused to cast their electoral votes for Hillary Clinton the winner in both states in the 2016 election.
The Supreme Court’s opinion and syllabus provide clarity regarding the role of electors in each state and seeks to prevent attempts to marginalize the popular vote during presidential elections. In the decision, the Court determined that Article II grants the States the authority to appoint electors while:
“conveying the broadest power of determination” over who becomes an elector. McPherson v. Blacker, 146 U. S. 1, 27. And the power to appoint an elector (in any manner) includes power to condition his appointment, absent some other constitutional constraint. A State can require, for example, that an elector live in the State or qualify as a regular voter during the relevant time period. Or more substantively, a State can insist (as Ray allowed) that the elector pledge to cast his Electoral College ballot for his party’s presidential nominee, thus tracking the State’s popular vote. Or—so long as nothing else in the Constitution poses an obstacle—a State can add an associated condition of appointment: It can demand that the elector actually live up to his pledge, on pain of penalty. Which is to say that the State’s appointment power, barring some outside constraint, enables the enforcement of a pledge like Washington’s.”
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson told CNBC in an interview that this Supreme Court decision supports “the fundamental principle that the vote of the people should matter in choosing the president.”
Nevertheless, today President Trump is meeting with two powerful members of the Michigan Republican Party in hope of persuading them to appoint new electors that will vote for him instead of Joe Biden.
What can we do to stop this charade? Contact the legislators listed below and ask them to respect their oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, Michigan state law and the rights of the American voters.
You can reach them by email or phone at the addresses and numbers listed below.
Representative Lee Chatfield
Michigan Speaker of the House
Office #: (517) 373-2629
Senator Mike Shirkey
Michigan Senate Majority Leader
Office #: (517) 373-5932