In the conclusion to the rogue elector saga we have been following, the Supreme Court applied what I refer to as the “Erosion Doctrine” to unanimously hold that states can turn their presidential electors into mere rubber stamps, thus depriving them of any discretion when selecting the president. Over two centuries, the power of electors to use their discretion slowly eroded until this case, decided earlier this year, officially killing off that discretion and an original part of the Constitution with it.
This is a special edition of The Law. We discussed the 10th Circuit opinion Baca v. Colorado (2019) back in episode 48 of The Law. Micheal Baca (yes, he spells his first name Micheal, not Michael) is the plaintiff in that case, and he graciously agreed to talk to me about how he became a Presidential Elector, why he did not vote for Hillary Clinton as state law required, and what happened when he refused to rubber stamp a ballot with only one name on it.
Almost 20 years ago, the presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was decided by the results in Florida. Due to the failure of Florida to execute the election and ballot counting process in a competent manner, the United States Supreme Court had to address the Equal Protection issues raised by the state when it changed the process of how it would count the votes and the state did not apply any consistent standard as to how disputed ballots were to be counted. This 5-4 decision halted an unconstitutional third recount of the votes. Bush won Florida’s 25 electoral college votes and the presidential election by fewer than 600 popular votes.
Lower courts have come to opposite conclusions on whether or not states can bind their Electoral College voters to rubber stamp the popular vote or if electors can use their discretion and vote how they want. If this question is not decided by the U.S. Supreme Court by November 2020, our next Presidential election could result in a disputed Presidency…like we are Venezuela or something.
Whether or not members of the Electoral College can use their discretion when voting, or if states can require electors to vote a certain way, remains in the news. Last week, in episode 48 of The Law, we discussed the 10th Circuit’s ruling on the issue in Baca v Colorado. This week, we discuss a recent Washington state Supreme Court ruling that directly contradicts Baca. How do these two cases arrive at completely opposite conclusions? The Law answers that question.