Faithless electors in history have never changed the outcome of an election. Still, people hoped that this would be the year that they kept the presumptive winner of an election out of the White House. Those who put their hope in electors defecting from Donald Trump, however, have had their dreams crushed.
While Monday’s Electoral College vote did see some electors refusing to vote for their party’s candidate, the result was nowhere near what was needed to keep Trump from being confirmed as the winner. In fact, Hillary Clinton lost more votes than Trump due to faithless electors, an interesting turn of events considering the number of Clinton’s supporters who were encouraging electors to defect.
In the 2016 election, electors cast a total of seven votes for presidential candidates other than the one nominated by their parties. Washington awarded three votes to Colin Powell and one to Faith Spotted Eagle and Hawaii gave one vote to Bernie Sanders, although the electors of both states were pledged to Clinton. Trump lost two votes, with Texas giving one vote to Ron Paul and one to John Kasich.
Faithless electors may also choose to defect when voting for the vice presidency. Washington cast votes for Elizabeth Warren, Maria Cantwell, Susan Collins, and Winona LaDuke rather than for Tim Kaine. Hawaii also gave one vote to Warren instead of Kaine. Texas gave one vote to Carly Fiorina instead of Mike Pence.
A vote for John Kasich in Colorado and two for Bernie Sanders, one in Maine and one in Minnesota, were invalidated, as well as a vice presidential vote for Tulsi Gabbard in Minnesota.
Twenty-nine states, as well as the District of Columbia, have laws in place that penalize faithless electors. Other states invalidate votes cast for anyone other than the pledged candidate. This is the first time Minnesota has invoked the law to invalidate a vote from a faithless elector.
Faithless electors gave many reasons for defecting from their pledged candidate. Most saw their party’s candidate as ill-suited for the job, like David Mulinix, the Hawaii elector who voted for Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton.
While many people have been unfamiliar with the concept of faithless electors until now, there have been many throughout history. Faithless electors are nothing new, having been around since the 1796 election when a president and vice president from opposing parties were elected.
Faithless electors are not common, but there have been many times throughout history in which electors defected from their party’s nominee. 2016 has had the most faithless electors in more than a century. In 1912, the Republican vice presidential candidate died before the election, causing eight electors pledged to James S. Sherman to vote for Nicholas M. Butler instead.
This is the first election since 1912, which has had more than one faithless elector.
Votes cast by faithless electors are sometimes milestones in history. A vote cast for Faith Spotted Eagle this year marked the first time a Native American received an electoral vote for the presidency. Faith Spotted Eagle, a member of the Yankton Sioux Nation, is an activist who helped block the development of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline, according to RT. The vote was likely cast in protest of Clinton, “who supported the use of fracking and had a pro-Keystone XL pipeline stance that was revealed in the WikiLeaks publication of campaign chair John Podesta’s emails.”
Other notable firsts in history include a 1972 vice presidential vote for Tonie Nathan. The vote, cast by faithless elector Roger MacBride, was the first electoral vote ever cast for a woman. In 2000, Barbara Lett-Simmons, an elector from Washington, D.C., refused to cast a vote in protest of the District of Columbia’s lack of a voting representative in Congress.
Despite over 150 faithless electors throughout history, they have never changed the expected outcome of an election. This election, despite the hopes of many people, was no different.
Many, however, are encouraged by the outcome of the vote. Elector Peter B. Chiafolo, co-founder of Hamilton Electors, a group that encouraged people to vote against Trump, said he was “inspired by the widespread support his group received,” according to the Los Angeles Times. While faithless electors failed to change the course of history this year, many people have gained knowledge about the political process.
[Featured Image by Sarah Rice/Getty Images]