Chiafalo v. Washington

Facts of the Case

When Americans cast ballots for presidential candidates, their votes actually go toward selecting members of the Electoral College, whom each State appoints based on the popular returns. The States have devised mechanisms to ensure that the electors they appoint vote for the presidential candidate their citizens have preferred. With two partial exceptions, every State appoints a slate of electors selected by the political party whose candidate has won the State’s popular vote. Most States also compel electors to pledge to support the nominee of that party. Relevant here, 15 States back up their pledge laws with some kind of sanction. Almost all of these States immediately remove a so-called “faithless elector” from his position, substituting an alternate whose vote the State reports instead. A few States impose a monetary fine on any elector who flouts his pledge.


“Did the lower court err in determining that North Carolina’s new districting plan constituted a racial gerrymander that violated the Equal Protection Clause, either by applying an incorrect standard or by relying on erroneous fact-finding?Should the claims have been dismissed under either the doctrine of issue preclusion or claim preclusion?Should the Supreme Court resolve a split between the lower court in this case and the North Carolina Supreme Court, which reached different conclusions on the same issue?”


“A state may constitutionally enforce a presidential elector’s pledge to support his party’s nominee—and the state voters’ choice—for President. Justice Elena Kagan authored the majority opinion that was unanimous in the judgment.Article II, §1 gives the States the authority to appoint electors “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct,” which the Court has interpreted as conveying to the states “the broadest power of determination” over who becomes an elector. The Twelfth Amendment, which also addresses the Electoral College, only sets out the electors’ voting procedures. Thus, the appointment power of the states is extensive, and nothing in the Constitution prohibits states from taking away the discretion of presidential electors’ discretion, as Washington does. The history of voting in this country supports the conclusion that electors do not have the discretion to vote however they like