CLC Files Amicus Brief Urging the Supreme Court Not to Allow for Faithless Electors

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A seated man put a ballot into a box being held out to him while other people look on from behind him
Electors cast ballots as the Texas Electoral College meet at the Capitol in Austin, Texas. Photo by Bob Daemmrich / Alamy Stock Photo.

Wealthy special interests might soon get an opportunity to influence the process by which presidential electors in the Electoral College cast their deciding votes in 2020 and beyond.

As Adav Noti, senior trial litigator and chief of staff at CLC outlined in a recent op-ed, this summer, the Supreme Court is scheduled to decide Chiafalo v. Washington and Colorado Department of State v. Baca, constitutional challenges to the requirement that “presidential electors – the people who physically cast their state’s electoral votes – must vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in their state.”

A ruling to “unbind” them from their home-state voters will introduce new opportunities for wealthy special interests to influence our politics and for presidential electors to cast their votes in favor of the highest bidder.

None of the federal laws that currently require elected officials and policymakers to follow financial ethics and transparency rules apply to presidential electors. A presidential elector could legally accept contributions worth millions of dollars in connection with their official duties, and the public would never know.

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and Issue One, working with Sidley, recently filed an amicus brief outlining some of the issues presented in these cases.

In most states, members of the Electoral College are pledged to vote for the candidate who wins the majority of the popular votes in their state. And even in the states without formal pledges, presidential electors for centuries have been expected to follow the will of the people. When a member of the Electoral College fails to vote for the candidate that wins the popular vote in their state, they break faith with the state’s voters.

This makes them what is known as faithless electors.

Watch the video to learn more about faithless electors. 

Additionally, Noti’s recent op-ed highlighted how “If the Supreme Court unbinds presidential electors, federal laws will need to be broadened right away to ensure that they are subject to the same anti-corruption rules as government officials.” Specifically, presidential electors will need to be covered by the federal laws that restrict who can give officials money and require them to disclose their sources of income.

To protect American democracy, laws would have to be changed immediately to make sure that the 2020 Electoral College is fair, transparent, and protected from corruption.

Georgia is the 2020 CLC Communications Fellow