Explained: Who Are “Faithless Voters” and Can They Make a Fuss of the US Electoral College Vote?

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |

December 15, 2020, 12:02:54 am

Republican John Dane III, a member of the Mississippi electoral college, dated his signature on the ballot paper after casting his vote on December 14 at the Jackson State Capitol. (Photo: AP)

The Electoral College is gathering in the United States today to confirm the election of the next US President and Vice President. The meetings will take place days after all 50 states and the District of Columbia confirm their November 3 election results. West Virginia was the last state to do this last week.

Currently, President-elect Joe Biden has 306 votes, enough to win the White House, while President Donald Trump has 232 votes and is expected to lose. Observers say these numbers are unlikely to change unless some of today’s presidential elections go “loyal” to elect a candidate who is not their state’s popular choice or abstains from voting.

Who are the members of the electoral college?

To win the US presidential election, a candidate does not have to win the national referendum, but needs a direct majority in the electoral college – a group of voters from across the country who elect the country’s next president and vice president.

The The electoral college has a total of 538 voterswhich are divided according to the number of seats each state has in the US Congress. Crossing the half-time mark – 270 – means winning the presidency.

As soon as the results are announced after election day, individual states will confirm their referendum in accordance with their own legal and procedural requirements. Once it is clear who won the state’s referendum, states elect their voters to the electoral college.

The voters come from a group of people chosen by the political parties months before the election. Of course, the parties select people who are their loyal supporters to ensure that they vote for the party’s presidential candidate and no one else.

According to the US Constitution, only those who are members of Congress or hold federal office can become voters. So voters are generally retired politicians, elected state or local officials, party activists, or even those personally related to the candidates, according to the BBC.

For example, former President Bill Clinton was among the 2016 voters who voted for his wife, then Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump Jr., President Trump’s eldest son and namesake, was also a voter that year.

Who are “faithless voters”?

These are members of the electoral college who become rogue and decide to vote for a candidate who is not the popular choice of their state or to abstain despite a promise not to do so. Such “unfaithful” voters have been seen in several elections in US history, including the first presidential election of 1788-89, in which three did not vote.

Voters are generally known to be behind their party’s candidate and an election has never been overturned because they became villains. However, there have been notable incidents that have attracted media coverage.

In the last election in 2016, 10 of the total of 538 electoral college members were loyal, a record high. After the election results were announced that year, 306 voters were estimated for Trump and 232 for Clinton. However, in the end, Trump secured 304 votes and Clinton 227 as 7 out of 10 managed to become villain, with three votes void.

A number of faithless voters as large as 2016 could have made a big impact during the 2000 election, when Republican candidate George W. Bush had 271 voters, just two more than his Democratic rival Al Gore’s 269.

However, at today’s electoral college meeting, it is expected that Biden will be able to sail around the area with ease thanks to his much larger lead. 📣 Follow the express explained in the telegram

Are there legal implications for unfaithful voters?

Yes, thanks to a ruling by the US Supreme Court in July this year that allows states to punish voters who break off the line. “The constitutional text and the nation’s history both support a state’s permission to enforce a voter’s promise to support their party’s candidate – and the election of state voters – for president,” the ruling reads.

Currently, 33 states and the District of Columbia have laws against unfaithful voting, and three Washington state voters have been fined $ 1,000 for failing to vote in their state’s election at the time, Hillary Clinton. However, up to 17 states do not have such laws.

This year President Trump’s allies who refuse to recognize Biden’s victory have argued that enough unfaithful voters could keep the Republican in power. Several reports, including in the New York Times and CNN, refute this notion and predict a comfortable win for Biden.

What happens after the electoral college meeting?

On January 6, 2021, the U.S. Congress will meet and count and confirm the votes cast by the electoral college. If disputes arise at this point, they will be resolved by the US Congress. This step also marks the end of the voting process in the US elections.

On January 20, two weeks after this final step, Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.

📣 The Indian Express is on the telegram now. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay up to date on the latest headlines

Download the Indian Express App for the latest explained news.

© Indian Express (P) Ltd.