I'm talking about this decision:


I want to understand the meaning of the title of the article:

"Electoral College voters can be forced to back state popular vote winners"

What does this mean exactly? Does this mean that if the elector votes against the state, the state can nullify and revert his vote? In that case... what's the point of even having electors vote at that December meeting... just count the votes automatically.

Or does this mean that the elector's vote will count even if he votes against the state, but he will face punishment from the state afterwards?

  • Please quote what you are asking about from that article.
    – Joe W
    Nov 7, 2020 at 17:45
  • 1
    ok. I meant the title of the article: "Electoral College voters can be forced to back state popular vote winners" This title is unclear to me. What exactly does it mean to force the voters to back the state? Nov 7, 2020 at 17:47
  • That cleared up the question at least in my mind.
    – Joe W
    Nov 7, 2020 at 17:51

3 Answers 3


The case was brought by two 2016 electors from Washington and Colorado. In those states, as well as several others, state law requires electors who do not vote for the candidate who won the popular vote to be disqualified and replaced. The Supreme Court ruling affirms a state's right to do this.

It's worth noting that this is a decision that's taken by individual states. Some states will not disqualify electors for voting differently to how they are pledged. Other states, on the other hand, will go as far as issuing a fine for electors who vote differently to how they are pledged.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JJJ
    Nov 7, 2020 at 22:41

Does this mean that if the elector votes against the state, the state can nullify and revert his vote?

It is up to the state. Some states fine electors who vote against the pledged candidate, but do not replace his vote (this was the case in Washington state, which was the subject of Chiafalo v. Washington, the Supreme Court case you are talking about). Some states disqualify the vote of an elector that voted against the pledged candidate, and replace him with a new elector (this was the case in Colorado, which was the subject of the accompanying Supreme Court case Colorado Department of State v. Baca). The Supreme Court decisions ruled that both these approaches are permissible. However, a state is not required to penalize faithless electors, and many states currently don't.

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    Thanks. It seems like if the Supreme Court says the state has the authority to nullify an electror's vote, then it might as well grant states the right to cast votes without having actual electors. Nov 7, 2020 at 18:33

What that means is that a state can pass a law that requires the electoral voters to follow the outcome of the vote in that state. Some states have laws that require them to vote in that direction while other states do not.

The article lists examples of what happens in cases where the state law prohibits them from voting against the law

Micheal Baca, the Colorado elector, was replaced before he could cast his vote for former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Three Washington electors were hit with $1,000 fines after voting for former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Statements about who has the rights in this case

Kagan wrote that the Constitution gives states “broad power over electors” and “electors themselves no rights.”

What this does is show that the states themselves can control how the electors have to vote based on laws and regulation.

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    So why have electors there at all if they can't go against what the state wants? Seems like a pointless ceremony. Nov 7, 2020 at 17:59
  • @AmeetSharma Why have an election at all if the electors can pick who they want instead of who the people want? There are plenty of problems with the system but I don't think that is one of them. The state isn't saying who to vote for in these cases rather they are saying you will follow what the popular vote said.
    – Joe W
    Nov 7, 2020 at 19:11
  • but if the electors (for the electoral college) are just rubber stamping the popular vote for the state, why do we need them? Just assign the electoral votes without having actual electors. So 10 electoral votes for Biden, means those 10 votes get counted rather than assigning 10 people to be "electors" and go through a rubber-stamping ceremony. Nov 7, 2020 at 21:50
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    @JoeW Because the Constitution specifically says they have to exist, and neither party is willing to change that when it is so easily worked around.
    – StephenS
    Nov 7, 2020 at 22:01
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    @JoeW Yes, actually, it did. That was the original point: the unwashed masses were too stupid to be allowed to directly vote on Presidents or Senators.
    – StephenS
    Nov 8, 2020 at 18:35

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