Faithless Electors, and More from CRS

11.05.12 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The members of the Electoral College who formally enact the election of the President are expected or even required to represent the wishes of the voters who elected them, but sometimes they don’t!

“Notwithstanding the tradition that electors are bound to vote for the candidates of the party that nominated them, individual electors have sometimes broken their commitment, voting for a different candidate or candidates other than those to whom they were pledged,” a report from the Congressional Research Service explains. “They are known as ‘faithless’ or ‘unfaithful’ electors.”

“Although 24 states seek to prohibit faithless electors by a variety of methods, including pledges and the threat of fines or criminal action, most constitutional scholars believe that once electors have been chosen, they remain constitutionally free agents, able to vote for any candidate who meets the requirements for President and Vice President. Faithless electors have been few in number (since the 20th century, one each in 1948, 1956, 1960, 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1988, one blank ballot cast in 2000, and one in 2004), and have never influenced the outcome of a presidential election.”

See The Electoral College: How It Works in Contemporary Presidential Elections, October 22, 2012.

Other new and newly updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has not made available to the public include the following.

Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress, October 25, 2012

Federal Involvement in Flood Response and Flood Infrastructure Repair: Storm Sandy Recovery, October 31, 2012

Emergency Relief Program: Federal-Aid Highway Assistance for Disaster-Damaged Roads and Bridges, November 1, 2012

Constitutionality of Retroactive Tax Legislation, October 25, 2012

The Impact of the Federal Estate Tax on State Estate Taxes, October 24, 2012

Air Force F-22 Fighter Program, updated October 25, 2012