Q&A – How Many States Allow “Faithless Electors”?

Today’s entry: Brian, how many States require their Electors to follow their Popular Vote tally? In '16 we had a month of Celebrities begging Electors to 'Vote their Conscience'.

Bottom Line: Faithless electors have been an on again off again conversation since the Florida 2000 election. While there were faithless electors lured by celebrities and others four years ago as you referenced, the conversation was at the forefront of the 2000 election. Not only did George W. Bush lose the national popular vote, his contested win of Florida but just over 500 votes placed him over the threshold of Electoral College votes needed to win the Presidency. Nearly as close as the Florida vote, was the final Electoral College margin as Bush won 271-266. Had just two “faithless” electors peeled off Bush in 2000, he wouldn’t have won the election. As it turned out, the only “faithless elector” in 2000 was ironically a would-be Gore voter from Washington D.C. This person didn’t vote in the Electoral College as a means of protesting the Supreme Court’s ruling ending the questionable recounts in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

So, about the states which allow for faithless electors, 33 states and D.C. have laws that mandate electors vote according to their state or District’s popular vote. This includes Florida. These laws were recently challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled in favor of the state’s right to outlaw faithless electors. There’s a but however, 16 of the states, including Florida, ban faithless electors but don’t impose any penalties for those who break the law. So, I suppose it’s up to you to decide if they count or not?

Interestingly, there are two current contested states which don’t have bans for faithless electors, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Three others have bans but no penalties, they are Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin . The only contested state which has fully accounted for faithless electors is Nevada where a faithless elector is banned, and they’re replaced should they vote differently than the state’s popular vote. Your mind can go wild with the prospect of mass faithless electors this year, but should the states finalize their vote totals for the candidates shown leading right now. Biden would show a 306-232 Electoral College advantage-based state popular vote totals, ironically the exact margin between Trump and Clinton four years ago. Should that be the case you’d have to have 37 Biden electors peel off and vote for someone other than him. 

It’s an important topic to understand. The history, even recent, is interesting and it could be helpful for the purpose of proposing reforms to state laws. In reality, even if we have faithless electors again this year, they'll be as forgettable as those from four years ago.

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Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

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Photo by: Mario Tama/Getty Images

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