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SCOTUS rules for Colorado, against ‘faithless elector’ who went rogue in 2016

July 6, 2020, 1:20 pm

Democrat Hillary Clinton topped Republican Donald Trump by nearly 3 million votes (48.2% to 46.1%) in 2016, but Trump won the presidency by virtue (?) of the Electoral College. That outdated quirk of the Constitution got a shot in the arm Monday from the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that involved a “faithless elector” from Colorado.

Phil Weiser
Colorado AG Phil Weiser

SCOTUS on Monday unanimously ruled that states may require the unelected electors who pick presidential winners (there are nine of them in Colorado – one for each of our seven U.S. reps and one for each of our two U.S. senators) to support the state’s popular-vote winner. In 2016, that was Clinton in Colorado, but “faithless elector” Michael Baca tried to vote for the GOP’s John Kasich.

Besides Trump being on the ballot again this year (Nov. 3) against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in a battle for the soul of our nation, Colorado voters will get to decide on something already approved by state lawmakers – adoption of the National Popular Vote Compact. Approved by 15 states and the District of Columbia, NPV allocates all of a state’s Electoral College votes to the winner of the, you guessed it, popular vote nationally.

If approved by Colorado voters, that would give NPV states 196 of the necessary 270 Electoral College votes for implementing the policy, although there would no doubt be some serious legal wrangling when and if that ever happens.

Twice in the last 20 years, Democratic candidates who won the popular vote (Al Gore in 2000 and Clinton in 16) lost the presidency because of the Electoral College. Here’s what Real Vail wrote about that last fall in a post about youth climate change activism and a local high-school walkout:

“Now follow this action up by registering to vote the moment you turn 18 and then actually vote (if you can) in the 2019 election and even more importantly the 2020 election. Statewide issues include supporting Colorado’s inclusion in the National Popular Vote movement – meaning if enough states adopt NPV, we would go to an actual one-person, one-vote election model.

“The current Electoral College system has given us two presidents in the last 18 years (George W. Bush and Donald Trump) who did not win the popular vote. Both advanced the agenda of the heavily federally subsidized fossil fuel industry and basically poured gas on the climate crisis.

“Bush invaded Iraq based on bogus intelligence and furthered destabilized the Middle East to the tune of trillions of dollars in blood and capital that could have gone toward combating climate change. And now Trump has us on the verge of a war with Iran – again, over oil – after pulling out of a nuclear deal with that country and also pulling America out of the Paris Climate Accord.

“Yes, listen to Greta Thunberg, but also listen to Democrats asking you to come out for them in huge numbers in 2020. Don’t throw your vote away on obscure Green Party or other candidates with no hope of winning. Consider the consequences of Trump being re-elected.”

Here’s a comment from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Monday’s Supreme Court ruling. 

“This is an important decision for the integrity of our democracy. I thank and congratulate Attorney General Phil Weiser for the thoughtful and successful argument he and his team presented to the Supreme Court on behalf of Coloradans. Until our country can fully reform our outdated electoral college rules, at least the vote of the people will be reflected by our electors.”

And here’s a comment from Weiser, who argued the case for Colorado:

“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that the States, and the States alone, have the exclusive authority to appoint and, if necessary, remove presidential electors when they violate their pledges. The Court’s historic opinion ensures that presidential electors will follow State law when they cast their Electoral College ballots in presidential elections and not act as free agents. With this issue decided before the 2020 election, we can avoid uncertainty, chaos, and confusion in the Electoral College, and protect our nation’s democratic principles and system of stable governance.”

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Newsline, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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