The 538 members of the Electoral College convened Monday and cast a majority of their votes for Donald Trump for president and Mike Pence for vice president. When Congress convenes on Jan. 6 to count the votes, it will mostly be a formality. But its decision to count or exclude the votes of some “faithless electors” will set a precedent for future elections. Faithless electors are those who are supposed to vote for the candidates named on the ballot but instead vote for someone else. States faced a number of faithless electors this year, mostly one-time supporters of Bernie Sanders. Democratic Party electors in Minnesota and Colorado were replaced when they attempted to vote for someone other than Hillary Clinton. A Maine elector attempted to vote for Mr. Sanders; his vote was ruled improper, and he changed his vote to Mrs. Clinton. A Hawaii elector broke a state pledge and voted for Mr. Sanders. Four Washington state electors violated a state pledge and cast three votes for Colin Powell and one for Faith Spotted Eagle. Two Republican electors in Texas cast votes for Ron Paul and John Kasich. It is now the duty of Congress, which holds power under the Twelfth Amendment, to determine how to count the electoral votes from the several states.
Congress has been required to answer many questions over the years about what to count. Should it be the votes cast in a new state that chose its electors before it was formally admitted to the union? (Answer: yes.) Should it count the votes cast for a deceased candidate? (Answer: no.) When examining whether a candidate has received a “majority of the whole number of electors appointed,” should Congress count electors who failed to cast a vote as a part of that “whole number”? (Answer: maybe.)
But in 58 presidential elections, Congress has never seen electoral votes that violated state law. In 1969, Congress considered rejecting a North Carolina elector’s vote for George Wallace instead of Richard Nixon. After much debate, a divided Congress decided to count the vote. Many in Congress noted that North Carolina did not have a law binding electors to support the winner of the state’s popular vote.
Whatever Congress does will set a major precedent. If it counts the votes in Minnesota and Colorado, for instance, it will ratify the power of the states to remove faithless electors for breaking state pledges.
Full Article: Faithless Electors: Now It’s Up to Congress – WSJ.