This is the twist that no one saw coming.
The voices demanding that the Electoral College be abolished have been getting louder and louder of late, with many people preferring to go with a national popular vote to pick our presidents. That would take changing the Constitution, no easy feat. The National Popular Vote effort, which I’ve written about HERE, works within the rules of the Constitution by allowing the states to stipulate that their electors vote for the winner of the national popular vote, instead of each state’s popular vote winner.
But for the time being, and certainly for the 2020 presidential election, we’re stuck with the Electoral College, where the electors for each state cast their vote for president based on the winner of their state’s popular vote.
But yesterday, the 10th Circuit ruled that each state’s electors cannot be required to vote for the state’s popular vote winner.
Yep. Most states say that an elector must vote for the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in their state. So if the Democrat wins the popular vote, all of the electors must vote for that candidate. The 10th Circuit decision says the electors don’t have to listen to state law and can vote for whichever candidate they want to.
Electors who have done that in the past have been called “faithless electors.” You likely remember hearing about those in 2016. In fact, this 10th Circuit decision stemmed from a court case in Colorado by a faithless elector who sued the state.
So what happens now?
For starters, this ruling immediately takes effect in the states bound by the 10th Circuit, so Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
However, this ruling is in direct conflict with another ruling, this one from Washington’s state Supreme Court, that ruled that electors must bind their vote to the results of the popular vote in the state.
The secretary of state in Colorado, Jena Griswold (whose office argued the case in the 10th Circuit), made her feelings clear when she said that the ruling “sets an extremely dangerous precedent that would enable a few people to override the majority of Colorado votes.”
The ruling is widely expected to get kicked up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
This is going to get messy, folks.
For a primer on how electors fit in to the Electoral College, watch this: