COMBINED WIRE REPORTS (TNS)
A federal judge in Seattle rejected a request today by two Washington state electors to pre-empt a state law that could fine them up to $1,000 each if they disregard the state’s presidential popular vote.
Democratic electors Bret Chiafalo and Levi Guerra contend the law is unconstitutional, and that they should be able to cast their votes as they see fit when the Electoral College meets Monday.
But U.S. District Judge James Robart denied their request, noting they’d volunteered to become electors and signed pledges to honor the state’s popular vote, which went to Hillary Clinton.
The ruling was another blow to the movement of so-called “Hamilton Electors” who have launched a late and longshot effort to block president-elect Donald Trump from the White House.
As Democratic electors, Chiafalo and Guerra were already assumed to be in Clinton’s column - so they can’t do anything to reduce Trump’s Electoral College count. But they’re trying to persuade Republican electors in other states to split from Trump and unite with them behind an as-yet-unidentified alternative GOP candidate.
A judge in Colorado this week rejected a similar lawsuit, calling it “a political stunt,” according to The Denver Post.
Robart didn’t go that far, but said there was no legal precedent supporting the electors’ arguments, adding their claim that the state law violates their free-speech rights “lacks a significant chance of success on the merits.”
Chiafalo and Guerra have said they hope to join with Republican electors in others states to deny Trump the 270 Electoral College votes needed to cement his election, which would throw the choice to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Attorneys for Washington state defended the state’s law, joined in court by lawyers for Trump and the state Republican Party.
The actions come a week after an elector representing Texas declared that he would not vote for Trump when the Electoral College meets.
He is the second Republican elector this year to refuse to cast his vote in accordance with the results in his state.
Christopher Suprun, a paramedic and former firefighter who was one of the first responders to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that Trump is “someone who shows daily he is not qualified for the office.” Suprun said he had a legal right and constitutional duty to vote his conscience and planned to do so.
Suprun’s announcement followed one by Art Sisneros, another Republican elector in Texas, who last month wrote that he would resign rather than cast his vote for Trump.
Suprun joins a handful of other “faithless electors” in American history. (Because Sisneros resigned, he is technically not “faithless.”)
Samuel Miles of Pennsylvania had the distinction of being the first, in 1796. Miles was a Federalist who had promised to vote for the Federalist candidate, John Adams, but instead cast his vote for Democratic-Republican candidate Thomas Jefferson.
There have been a total of 157 faithless voters to date, according to FairVote.org, a nonprofit that advocates for national popular-vote elections for president.
Several of them broke with the electorate less out of rebellion than for practical reasons. Throughout the years, 71 electors have changed their votes because the candidate their state chose died before the Electoral College could convene. In 1872, for example, Horace Greeley, the nominee of both the Democratic and Liberal Republican parties, lost the general election and died 24 days later. Sixty-three of the 66 Democratic electors refused to vote for a deceased candidate.
The Constitution does not specifically require electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote in their states, but the laws of 29 states and the District of Columbia bind electors to do so. Some require pledges or threaten fines or criminal action, according to a summary of state laws by the National Association of Secretaries of State.
No elector has ever been prosecuted for not voting as pledged.
Since 1900, there have been only nine faithless electors who defected for individual reasons, including one who abstained from voting altogether.