A federal appeals court ruled last week that members of the Electoral College are not required to follow the wishes of their state’s voters, according to The New York Times.
This means that regardless of the popular vote results in their states, electors — who place the actual votes for president — may cast their ballots for whichever candidate they personally prefer.
Many states have rules in place regarding so-called “faithless electors,” who do not follow the voters’ choice. In Colorado, a faithless elector named Michael Baca was booted in 2016 when he wrote in Republican presidential candidate John Kasich, rather than voting for Hillary Clinton, who had won the state’s popular vote.
Baca, a Democrat, was replaced with another elector who would honor the people’s wish.
The United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver ruled on Thursday that Colorado was out of line in discarding Baca’s vote and replacing him, the Times reported.
“The text of the Constitution makes clear that states do not have the constitutional authority to interfere with presidential electors who exercise their constitutional right to vote for the president and vice president candidates of their choice,” the court majority wrote.
Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig said with the current state of politics in the U.S., where hyper-partisanship rules and the country is near evenly split, a presidential election could result in an Electoral College tie. Electors could then seek to influence the outcome, ushering in utter chaos.
Lessig, who founded the group that brought the case, Equal Citizens, is hoping the Supreme Court will take up the issue before the 2020 presidential election.
“Whatever side you’re on, whether you think it’s a good or bad idea for electors to have freedom, the question ought to be resolved before there is a constitutional crisis,” Lessig told the Times.