I recently read this question:

Could faithless electors really change the USA president?

I gather that a faithless elector is an elector who goes against the votes cast, but why are they called a faithless elector? What is the background behind this?


The history of the term's usage can be seen on Google's n-Gram:

Faithless elector, Faithless electors both show zero hits before 1965.

The first mention I could find was "Electoral College Reform: Hearings ... 91-1, on H.J.Res. 179, H.J.Res.181, and Similar Proposals, February 5, 6, 19, 20, 26, 27; March 5, 6, 12, and 13, 1969, Serial, Issue 1"

It's never mentioned in the legal documents that I know of, so it seems to be a common language term.


They are deemed faithless because they pledge to vote for a candidate when they are chosen as electors and then break that pledge a vote for some other candidate. Breaking the pledge makes them faithless


  • This explains what a faithless elector is, but why faithless? Why aren't they called Pledge Breaker Electors? The comment by @blip on the question appears to answer that part – Tom J Nowell Nov 3 '16 at 16:05
  • It's faithfulness to the pledge. Remember both sides have their own electors and when chosen the outcome isn't known. They aren't betraying the popular vote; they are not beholden to it. – K Dog Nov 3 '16 at 16:09
  • @TomJNowell I think K Dog's answer is more technically correct than my comment. I'd vote this one as correct. – user1530 Nov 3 '16 at 16:54

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