Tuesday, January 25, 2011


States with laws punishing faithless electors


One of the major points of controversy in the election was the challenge to the eligibility of Barack Hussein Obama to be president of the United States.

I was one of the many persons who did not, and still do not, believe that he was eligible. While many based their objections to his eligibility solely on his place of birth,
contending that he was not born in the United States, I was one of those who, while also believing that he was born in Monbassa, Kenya, believed that he was ineligible because he was not born of two parents who were both citizens of the United States at the time of his birth. The constitutional requirement that one must be a NATURAL BORN CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES in order to be eligible for the presidency has traditionally been understood to require that one be born of two such parents. He was not.

In order to head off the casting of ballots for Obama by the members of the Electoral College following the general election in which he received the majority of the popular vote, packets of documentation were sent to every member of the College detailing his ineligibility. It was a great disappointment to many of us that the electors cast their ballots for him when the College met in December, 2008 and the Congress accepted their voting and declared Obama president.

What I did not know at the time was that, while the policy varies from state to state, the majority states require their electors to vote for the candidate for whom they have been pledged to vote. There is such a thing as a faithless elector.



Faithless elector
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In United States presidential elections, a faithless elector is a member of the Electoral College who does not vote for the candidate they have pledged to vote for. Faithless electors are pledged electors and thus different from unpledged electors.
On 158 occasions, electors have cast their votes for President or Vice President in a manner different from that prescribed by the legislature of the state they represented. Of those, 71 votes were changed because the original candidate died before the elector was able to cast a vote. Two votes were not cast at all when electors chose to abstain from casting their electoral vote for any candidate. The remaining 85 were changed by the elector's personal interest, or perhaps by accident. Usually, the faithless electors act alone. An exception was the U.S. presidential election of 1836, in which 23 Virginia electors conspired to change their vote together.
Political parties choose their slate of electors in each state, and they generally select party members with a reputation for high loyalty to the party and its candidate. Moreover, a faithless elector runs a risk of censure and other political retaliation from his party. Thus, the parties have generally been successful in keeping their electors faithful, leaving out the cases in which a candidate died before the elector was able to cast a vote.
Twenty-four states have laws to punish faithless electors.[1] While no faithless elector has ever been punished, the constitutionality of state pledge laws was brought before the Supreme Court in 1952 (Ray v. Blair, 343 U.S. 214). The court ruled in favor of the state's right to require electors to pledge to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged, as well as to remove electors who refuse to pledge. Once the elector has voted, their vote can only be changed in states such as Michigan and Minnesota, where votes other than those pledged are rendered invalid. However, in all twenty-four states, a faithless elector may only be punished after he or she votes. The Supreme Court has ruled that, as electors are chosen via state elections, they act as a function of the state, not the federal government. Therefore states have the right to govern electors. The constitutionality of state laws punishing electors for actually casting a faithless vote, rather than refusing to pledge, has never been decided by the Supreme Court.
To date, faithless electors have never changed the otherwise expected outcome of the election.
List of faithless electors
Electors do not have to vote for the candidate who received the most votes in any particular state. The following is a list of all faithless electors (in chronological order). The number preceding each entry is the number of faithless electors for the given year.
Election year
Faithless electors
Samuel Miles, an elector from Pennsylvania, was pledged to vote for Federalist presidential candidate John Adams, but voted for Democratic Republican candidate Thomas Jefferson. He cast his other presidential vote as pledged for Thomas Pinckney. (This election took place prior to the passage of the 12th Amendment, so there were not separate ballots for president and vice president.)

New York elector Anthony Lispenard demanded to be able to cast a secret ballot, rather than a public one as state law required, apparently because he wanted to cast both of his votes for Aaron Burr instead of one each for Burr and Thomas Jefferson. This demand was necessary to force Burr's election as President, since voting for Burr and someone else would have (in theory) simply created a deadlock in the electoral college and a run-off vote, which Jefferson would have likely won. However, Lispenard's demand was rejected by the state, and he voted as pledged, for Jefferson and Burr. Ironically, errors in the Democratic-Republican voting strategy meant that Jefferson and Burr ended up tying 73-73 in the electoral college, meaning that Lispenard could have caused Burr to become President all along by simply not casting his second vote, or voting for someone who was not a candidate, although he had no way of knowing this would be the case when he voted.[2]
Six electors from New York were pledged to vote for Democratic Republican James Madison as President and George Clinton as Vice President. Instead, they voted for Clinton to be President, with three voting for Madison as Vice President and the other three voting for James Monroe to be Vice President.
Three electors pledged to vote for Federalist vice presidential candidate Jared Ingersoll voted for Democratic Republican Elbridge Gerry. One Ohio elector did not vote.
William Plumer pledged to vote for Democratic Republican candidate James Monroe, but he cast his vote for John Quincy Adams who was also a Democratic Republican, but was not a candidate in the 1820 election. Some historians contend that Plumer did not feel that the Electoral College should unanimously elect any President other than George Washington, but this claim is disputed. (Monroe lost another three votes because three electors died before casting ballots and were not replaced.)
Seven (of nine) electors from Georgia refused to vote for vice presidential candidate John C. Calhoun. All seven cast their vice presidential votes for William Smith instead.
Two National Republican Party electors from the state of Maryland refused to vote for presidential candidate Henry Clay and did not cast a vote for him or for his running mate. All 30 electors from Pennsylvania refused to support the Democratic vice presidential candidate Martin Van Buren, voting instead for William Wilkins.
The Democratic Party nominated Richard Mentor Johnson of Kentucky as their vice presidential candidate. The 23 electors from Virginia refused to support Johnson with their votes upon learning of the allegation that he had lived with an African-American woman. There was no majority in the Electoral College and the decision was deferred to the Senate, which supported Johnson as the Vice President.

In New Jersey, where a fusion ticket was attempted, a Democratic supporter of Douglas refused to issue fusion tickets that would have supported Breckinridge. As a result, only three Democratic electors were chosen (all supporters of Douglas), and the other four electors chosen were Republican supporters of Abraham Lincoln.[3]
63 electors for Horace Greeley changed their votes after Greeley's death, which occurred before the electoral vote could be cast. Greeley's remaining three electors cast their presidential votes for Greeley and had their votes discounted by Congress.
In Oregon, three electors voted for Democrat Grover Cleveland, and one for the third-party Populist candidate. All four were pledged to Republican President Benjamin Harrison, who failed to get reelected. Also, in North Dakota, one elector voted for the Democrats and one for the Populists, while the Republicans had won the state.
The Democratic Party and the People’s Party both ran William Jennings Bryan as their presidential candidate, but ran different candidates for Vice President. The Democratic Party nominated Arthur Sewall and the People’s Party nominated Thomas E. Watson. The People’s Party won 31 electoral votes but four of those electors voted with the Democratic ticket, supporting Bryan as President and Sewall as Vice President.
Republican vice presidential candidate James S. Sherman died before the election. Eight Republican electors had pledged their votes to him but voted for Nicholas Murray Butler instead.
Two Tennessee electors were on both the Democratic Party and the States' Rights Democratic Party slates. When the Democratic Party slate won, one of these electors voted for the Democratic nominees Harry Truman and Alben Barkley. The other, Preston Parks, cast his votes for States' Rights Democratic Party candidates Strom Thurmond and Fielding Wright, making him a faithless elector.
Alabama Elector W. F. Turner, pledged for Democrats Adlai Stevenson and Estes Kefauver, cast his votes for Walter Burgwyn Jones and Herman Talmadge.
Oklahoma Elector Henry D. Irwin, pledged for Republicans Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., cast his presidential electoral vote for Democratic non-candidate Harry Flood Byrd and his vice presidential electoral vote for Republican Barry Goldwater. (Fourteen unpledged electors also voted for Byrd for president, but supported Strom Thurmond, then a Democrat, for vice president.)
North Carolina Elector Lloyd W. Bailey, pledged for Republicans Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, cast his votes for American Independent Party candidates George Wallace and Curtis LeMay.
Virginia Elector Roger MacBride, pledged for Republicans Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, cast his electoral votes for Libertarian candidates John Hospers and Theodora Nathan. MacBride's vote for Nathan was the first electoral vote cast for a woman in U.S. history. MacBride became the Libertarian candidate for President in the 1976 election.
Washington Elector Mike Padden, pledged for Republicans Gerald Ford and Bob Dole, cast his presidential electoral vote for Ronald Reagan, who had challenged Ford for the Republican nomination. He cast his vice presidential vote, as pledged, for Dole.

In Illinois, the electors, pledged to Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, conducted their vote in a secret ballot. When the electors voted for Vice President, one of the votes was for Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic nominee. After several minutes of confusion, a second ballot was taken. Bush won unanimously in this ballot, and it was this ballot that was reported to Congress.
West Virginia Elector Margaret Leach, pledged for Democrats Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen, instead cast her votes for the candidates in the reverse of their positions on the national ticket; her presidential vote went to Bentsen and her vice presidential vote to Dukakis.
Washington, D.C. Elector Barbara Lett-Simmons, pledged for Democrats Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, cast no electoral votes as a protest of Washington D.C.'s lack of statehood, which she described as the federal district's "colonial status."[4]
A Minnesota elector, pledged for Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards, cast his or her presidential vote for John Ewards [sic],[5] rather than Kerry, presumably by accident.[6] (All of Minnesota's electors cast their vice presidential ballots for John Edwards.) Minnesota's electors cast secret ballots, so unless one of the electors claims responsibility, it is unlikely that the identity of the faithless elector will ever be known. As a result of this incident, Minnesota Statutes were amended to provide for public balloting of the electors' votes and invalidation of a vote cast for someone other than the candidate to whom the elector is pledged.[7]

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