The Supreme Court of the United States will decide ahead of the 2020 election whether presidential electors are bound to support the popular vote winner in their states or can opt for someone else.
Advocates say the issue needs urgent resolution in an era of intense political polarization and the prospect of a razor-thin margin in a presidential election, although so-called “faithless electors” have been a footnote so far in American history.
The justices probably will hear arguments in April and should issue a decision by late June.
Four of Washington’s 12 Democratic presidential electors went rogue in 2016, with three casting their votes for former Secretary of State Colin Powell and one casting his vote for Faith Spotted Eagle, an activist in the fight against the Keystone XL Pipeline. All had signed pledges to support Clinton if she won the state’s vote.
State law at the time dictated a $1,000 fine for electors who defied the popular vote, but the four electors challenged the fine in court, contending that a state fine infringes on their free speech rights and interferes with a federal electoral process.
A Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled in 2017 that the fines were permissible, and the state Supreme Court upheld that ruling.