The Washington Supreme Court heard testimony today [Tuesday] in a case involving three presidential electors who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton as expected when the electoral college electors cast ballots to decide the 2016 election. As a result, they were fined by the state. An attorney for the trio argued the state had no right to punish them.
Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig argued the case for the three electors before the state’s high court. He says states do have a right to choose presidential electors for each party, as Washington did in 2016. But he argues they have no authority to choose for whom they must vote. The electors are free to pick their candidate, even if they deviate from the voters’ will.
“Because they have a constitutional freedom. They are performing a federal function. They no more can be fined than could a judge be fined for making a decision that was different from the promise he had made to the president when she was appointed by the president,” Lessig said.
The three voted for Colin Powell as a way to deny the electoral college victory to Donald Trump. A fourth Democratic elector also cast an unexpected vote. The Secretary of State’s office determined they had broken the law and fined them a thousand dollars.
Callie Castillo, arguing for the state, says Washington has the power to decide how electors should function.
“That is what Washington has done here in exercising its authority in requiring each of its electors to sign a pledge and submit that pledge to the Secretary of State, promising to follow the will of the voters,” Castillo said.
She says electors can choose to break their pledge, but they open themselves up to the possibility of fines. She argued the constitution does not give electors the right to choose for whomever they want.
The court has taken the case under advisement.