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Supreme Court rules rogue electors can be punished

The ruling will help ensure that each state’s popular vote isn’t ignored

Photo (c) Kameleon007 - Getty Images
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that states can punish “faithless” electors -- members of the Electoral College who vote for a candidate other than the one who won the popular vote in their state. 

"Today, we consider whether a State may also penalize an elector for breaking his pledge and voting for someone other than the presidential candidate who won his State's popular vote. We hold that a State may do so," Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the majority opinion.

"It reflects a longstanding tradition in which electors are not free agents; they are to vote for the candidate whom the State’s voters have chosen," Kagan said, adding that allowing punishment of these electors was in line with the Constitution and American tradition.

"The Constitution's text and the Nation's history both support allowing a State to enforce an elector's pledge to support his party's nominee -- and the state voters' choice -- for President," she added.

The court’s ruling comes less than four months before the November 2020 elections. Holding electors to stricter rules addresses the possibility of a rogue elector voting for someone other than the one who won the state’s popular vote. In a tight election, an action like this could sway the election in a direction other than the one taken by the majority of voters. 

The ruling will help ensure the Electoral College votes in a way that is as aligned with the popular vote as possible. Penalties such as fines to electors are already in place in some states. Monday’s ruling will leave it up to each state to determine how to punish electors who dissent from the results of the popular vote in their state. 

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