There is an interesting case about the political autonomy of the Electoral College working its way through the appeals process. In 2016, four Washington State electors voted for someone other than Hillary Clinton, joining three others that elected not to vote for the nominee their states’ popular votes chose. Washington State decided to enforce its law requiring the Evergreen State’s electors to vote for the Democratic Party’s official choice.
Last week I wrote about how the Progressive Movement transformed the United States, about a century ago, from a republic to a democracy. “Faithless elector” laws were a part of that metamorphosis, but Levi Guerra, Esther John, and Peter Chiafalo are challenging Washington State’s. All three were duly elected electors by the Washington Democratic Party’s state convention, and when given their ballots, the true presidential ballot in December 2016, that, unlike the November 2016 ballots we regular voters cast, was actually legally binding under our Constitution, these three electors voted for Colin Powell.
When the binding votes were counted, Donald Trump won 304 Electoral College votes. Hillary Clinton won 227. That sums up to only 531 votes. Yet there are 538. In addition to these three Washington State elector votes for a retired Army general, a Texas elector cast a vote for Ron Paul, another Texan voted for John Kasich, a Hawaiian elector voted for Bernie Sanders, and another Washington State elector voted for someone named Faith Spotted Eagle, a member of the Sioux tribe.
Last month the Washington Supreme Court, in Re: Guerra et al, upheld its state law, which imposes a $1000 fine. The defendants are currently exploring their options to appeal, but one thing that was not in dispute was the fact that their votes for Colin Powell counted as three bona fide Electoral College votes for Colin Powell. Even if these laws are eventually upheld upon final appeal, I can’t help but think $1000 for an Electoral College vote was quite a bargain.
Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of We were winning when I was there.