Faithless Electors In History: Donald Trump In 2016 Isn’t The First President-Elect To Face An Electoral College Revolt

Ahead of Donald Trump’s confirmation as the next President of the United States in the electoral college next week, there’s increasing concern that the President-elect could face a revolt from a number of so-called faithless electors; who won’t cast their vote for Donald Trump, despite being legally obliged to. However, Donald Trump isn’t the first president-elect to face a revolt in the electoral college. History is littered with some pretty prominent faithless electors, who each chose to defy the results of the election.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the concept of faithless electing dates back to 1948, when Preston Parks of Tennessee didn’t cast his vote for incumbent Harry S. Truman, despite being pledged to do so. Over the course of the election campaign, Parks was one of a number of Democrats opposed to Truman’s support for civil rights and changing the direction of the party. As such, he actively campaigned for Dixiecrat candidate Strom Thurmond and when the electoral college met after the election, he cast his vote for Thurmond.

Faithless electors once again cropped up in 1956 and 1960, when Democrat W.F. Turner and Republican Henry D. Irwin each chose to defy their party on the grounds of personal preference. However, as each was acting alone, their actions had little effect on the overall outcome of each respective election.

Controversial presidential candidate Richard Nixon faced his own electoral college woes back in 1968 too. According to Bustle, Lloyd Bailey, a Republican from North Carolina decided to cast his vote for an independent candidate, instead of his own party’s candidate; Richard Nixon. As an ultraconservative elector, Bailey expressed distaste for what he considered to be Nixon’s early “leftist” cabinet appointments and as such, decided to change his vote in the electoral college at the last minute.

Nixon faced further electoral college troubles during his re-election bid in 1972. Roger MacBride, a Republican elector from Virginia decided to make Nixon’s confirmation in the electoral college a little more difficult by instead casting his vote for John Hospers of the Libertarian Party. MacBride eventually went on to become the party’s nominee in 1976.


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Electoral college revolts aren’t always out of distaste for a particular candidate, however. In 1988, Democratic elector Margarette Leach wanted to point out the weaknesses in the electoral college system, so voted for vice presidential nominee Lloyd Bentsen as president and presidential nominee Michael Dukakis as vice president. Ultimately, Leach was alone in her protest and considering Michael Dukakis had already lost the presidential election, George H.W. Bush was easily confirmed as the victor.

Following the turn of the millennium, electoral college revolts have become a little less frequent. However, in 2000, Barbara Lett-Simmons became the first elector to abstain altogether from casting her vote in the electoral college. As an elector from the District of Columbia, Lett-Simmons used her vote to protest DC’s lack of congressional representation. However, she later revealed that she would have cast her vote for Democratic candidate Al Gore if he’d succeeded over George W. Bush in the infamous 2000 recount.

Finally, the most recent example of a faithless elector dates back to 2004. One unknown elector from Minnesota is believed to have cast his vote for John Edwards (incorrectly spelt as “Ewards” on the ballot) instead of Democratic candidate John F. Kerry. However, their identity is still unknown, as none of the state’s electors declared a protest vote.

Throughout history, faithless electors have been something of a rarity and have ultimately never affected the result of a presidential election. However, President-Elect Donald Trump is facing the biggest threat yet from faithless electors, with a number planning to use their electoral college vote to stand in the way of his presidency.

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