Justices of the United States Supreme Court may sit in a marble tower of sorts, but they've come down firmly on the side of the people in an important case on the electoral college.
The popular vote in each state should determine which candidate wins the state's electoral votes, not some rogue elector who thinks he or she knows better than the people. That was the decision of the justices.
The court made the right decision — and it was a unanimous decision.
The ruling takes on special importance because of the tight presidential races of recent history. It would be possible for a few rogue electors to throw a close election into further chaos by sending it to the House of Representatives. The decision prevents such a conspiracy from occurring.
The cases the court was considering arose out of just such a conspiracy among a few electors — the scheme crumbled when states removed the so-called faithless electors and some of them were fined.
The electors challenged their removal and the fines. In their ruling, the justices OK'd both the removal and replacement of faithless electors and the ability of states to punish electors who violate their pledge to support the winning candidate of their party.
Presidential electors should follow the will of the people in their state and vote for the winner of the state's popular vote for president. The Supreme Court supported that conclusion. The case did not deal with the larger debate over whether the Electoral College should be replaced by a popular vote system.
Two states, Maine and Nebraska, allocate electoral votes for the winner of congressional districts in the state.
Rogue electors remain rare because political parties or nominees choose the electors, even in states with no legal requirement that electors vote in accord with the popular vote.
In an extremely close election, it would take only a couple of rogue electors to break from their party and throw the election into the House. If there were enough of them in just a few states, rogue electors could change the outcome of a national election.
Allowing electors to disregard the popular vote in their states would only add to the divisiveness caused by the disparities between the national popular vote and the Electoral College results in the elections of 2000 and 2016.
The Supreme Court made the right decision. Electors must follow the popular will in each state. The Constitution leaves each state the right to deal with electors as they choose — almost all states mandate that the popular vote must be followed by state members of the Electoral College.
That is as it should be.
Originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.