On May 13, 2020, the Supreme Court will hear a case questioning whether presidential electors need to follow the democratic will of America and vote for the candidate who wins the popular vote.
In hopes of reforming the Electoral College to bring the US closer to a “one-person, one-vote” system, the pro-democracy group Equal Citizens petitioned the federal court, criticizing the current voting process and stating that the antiquated system should be abolished.
The court’s decision on May 13 could bolster the case for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, in which states’ electoral votes would go to the winner of the nationwide popular vote, instead of the winner of each state’s popular vote in what Electoral College opponents call an unconstitutional system.
As the nonprofit National Popular Vote Inc. says, “Existing winner-take-all laws are state laws, they are not part of the US Constitution.”
In 2016 three electors from Washington State did not vote for Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College, even though Clinton won the vote in Washington.
In 2019 a federal appeals court handed down a decision in the case of Baca vs. Hickenlooper, brought by Micheal Baca, an elector in Colorado who refused to cast his ballot for Hillary Clinton, the winner of the state’s popular vote. The court ruled that the nation’s 538 electors can vote for whomever they choose, rather than automatically giving their votes to the winner of their state’s popular vote.
In 2016, Baca crossed out Clinton’s name and wrote in Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, after coordinating with a number of other electors in Colorado. If enough electors cast ballots for Republicans besides Trump, Baca reasoned, Trump would lose the electoral vote.
But the state invalidated his ballot and gave his vote to a different elector who agreed to vote for Clinton. In doing so, the appeals court ruled, the state violated the US Constitution.
The court’s decision contrasted with another ruling by Washington State’s Supreme Court in another case brought by Equal Citizens. That court said that electors can be fined for failing to vote for the candidate chosen by the majority of voters in their state.
The Battle Over the Electoral College is Complicated
Critics of the Electoral College said both decisions only bolster the argument that the system must be replaced with one in which every voter’s vote counts as a single vote, and candidates must win the approval of the majority of voters in order to become president.
So far, 16 states, including Colorado, have passed laws that would award all of their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote—a nationwide initiative that would virtually wipe out the need for an Electoral College if enough states join.
Five of 45 Presidents Came into Office Without Getting the Most Votes Nationwide
Of the 58 presidential elections between 1789 and 2016, there have been five elections in which the candidate with the most popular votes nationwide did not win the presidency. The rate of such occurrences is therefore about one in 12.
In 2016, Donald Trump became president even though Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by 2,868,518 votes. Trump won because he carried Michigan by 11,000 votes, Wisconsin by 23,000 votes, and Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes. Each of these 78,000 votes was 36 times more important than the 2,868,518 votes cast in other states.
In 2000, George W. Bush became president even though Al Gore won the national popular vote by 537,179 votes. Bush won because he carried Florida by 537 votes. Each of these 537 votes was 1,000 times more important than the 537,179 votes cast in other states.
For more information, please visit www.nationalpopularvote.com.