Faithless Electors: Has Anyone in the Electoral College Ever Changed Their Vote?

faithless electors clinton

More than 4 million have signed a petition to get electors to change their vote. Is there any precedent for this? (Getty)

Hillary Clinton’s supporters are hoping against hope that some electors who are supposed to vote for Donald Trump will, instead, decide to vote for Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s leading in the popular vote, but Trump won the election thanks to the electoral college. Right now, the election results show 290 electoral college votes for Trump and 232 for Clinton, even though Clinton is leading in the popular vote with 61,318,162 to 60,541,308. Some places aren’t calling Michigan yet, but if it goes to Trump, those electoral votes will widen his lead even more. But it’s Trump’s lagging in the popular vote that’s fueling some voters’ desire to convince electors to switch and vote for Hillary Clinton instead. In fact, a petition urging such a change already has more than 4 million signatures. Have electors ever turned “faithless” before? Yes, they have. But never in the numbers needed to make a difference in this election.

Here’s what you need to know.

In many states, electors can become faithless electors and switch their vote to any candidate that they wish. However, some states use laws or pledges to bind their electors to vote for a specific candidate. The penalty for breaking this pledge isn’t typically severe. According to Inverse, the charge is typically a misdemeanor and a fine of about $1,000. There are 15 states that don’t bind their electors, according to NBC 11. These are Georgia, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

In the past, some electors have indeed stepped out and voted against their state’s popular vote, but this hasn’t happened since 2004. According to CNN, electors turned faithless in nine out of the last 17 elections. And in total, 179 electors have changed their vote for President or Vice President, according to FairVote.org.

There was only one time in history that faithless electors altered the result of an electoral vote. In 1836, all 23 electors in Virginia opted to be faithless. They were pledged to vote for Martin Van Buren and his running mate, Richard Mentor Johnson. But instead, they all refused to vote for Johnson. The Senate decided the election and ended up choosing Johnson anyway.

Here are some of the more recent faithless electors, from 1960 to present:

In 1960, Republican Harry Irwin from Oklahoma cast a faithless vote for Virginia Senator Harry Byrd. It was part of a plan Democrats had created in a last-ditch effort to find an alternative to John F. Kennedy, while not electing Richard Nixon. In the end, only one person went faithless.

In 1968, North Carolina elector Lloyd Bailey was pledged to Richard Nixon. Instead, he voted for the American Independent Party candidate George Wallace and his running mate Curtis LeMay. This was the year that Wallace got 45 electoral votes as a third-party candidate, a feat that no one has matched since.

In 1972, Virginia elector Roger MacBride was pledged to Republican Richard Nixon. Instead, he voted for Libertarian John Hospers and running mate Tonie Nathan.

In 1976, a big push was made to deny Jimmy Carter the win over Gerald Ford and his running mate, Bob Dole. Carter had won a narrow victory with only about 5,000 votes in Ohio and 3,000 in Hawaii. Dole later admitted that the Ford-Dole campaign had actually tried to influence Democrat electors by “shopping around” for electors who were willing to change their vote. Ultimately, it didn’t work. However, a Washington elector pledged to Gerald Ford did switch and voted for Ronald Reagan instead. He still voted for Dole as VP.

In 1988, a West Virginia elector who was pledged to Democrat Michael Dukakis voted for Bentsen instead. She said she voted in protest of the winner-take-all electoral college system.

In 2000, when Al Gore won the popular vote and George Bush won the electoral vote, things were very tense. There were concerns that Gore might have rightfully won the electoral vote too, if ballots were counted incorrectly in Florida. CNN reported that there was a strong lobbying campaign seeking to influence Republican voters to switch to Gore. Some of the electors told CNN that they even received death threats over the whole thing. In the end, only one Washington D.C. elector went faithless. She was pledged to Gore, but abstained from voting as a protest over D.C.’s lack of congressional representation.

In 2004, the most recent time there was a faithless elector, an elector in Minnesota voted for John Edwards as both president and vice president. No elector ever admitted to being the one who cast that vote. Since then, Minnesota requires that electors’ votes be made public.

We haven’t had a faithless elector since 2004. Will that streak end in 2016? Even if it does, there’s no precedent for electors switching in the numbers needed to give the election over to Hillary Clinton.

35 Comments

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35 Comments

FreeMinds

From my understanding, I believe the electors can vote for whomever they want. The house only chooses from who ever received at least one electoral vote in the event of a tie or if nobody gets to 270. So if enough republican electors get behind another republican (Lets just say Jeb Bush for example) too make it to where neither Trump or Hillary get to 270 the house could then vote on on Jeb Bush and the next president would be Jeb Bush. Since it would take a more than a handful of electors for it to happen it would probably bring about more than one extra candidate into the picture.

Arthur Schultz

If ever there was a time for the Electoral college to do what is right for America it is to change their votes to Clinton. Imagine how many lawsuits Trump is bringing with him and how will he manage Putin, who may have something very damaging on Trump and possibly use it as “Blackmail”. Why did Trump put forth a “Soft” stance for Russia on the Wikileaks controversy when all intelligence agencies said Russia was to blame? He may have something on Trump. And that leverage could damage the Free World, for generations to come. Last chance Electors, do the right thing!

Anonymous

I agree & wouldn’t it be nice to hear him say “the system is rigged” one more time….lol

Anonymous

You moron….Trump won. And remember the Electoral College ALWAYS favors the democrats….he just turned more states blue. Get over it…she is in mourning…just look at the outfit she wore that looks like bunting displayed on a firehouse after death. She’s pathetic!!!!!

Michael

You sir, are a moron. Not a tiny bit of a moron… but a giant, waste of space moron. You know, one of those morons, like you are.

americanrose76

What the hell is the point of a vote if all you do is flip when the going gets tough and are a sore loser?

broe12

Trump is not bringing any law suits with him to office. Everything that has been out in the news was a smear campaign created by the Clinton Foundation and George Soros. Every story that has come up about Trump sexually assaulted some female, it came up unfounded and the cases were dropped.

Clinton cannot serve, because she lost and the popular vote does not count in the POTUS election. All of you that got it your way, sorry but this is not Burger King.

FreeMinds

Actually if republicans got together on Dec. 19 and decided to flip enough electors for someone like Jeb Bush (there could be others that get some elector votes as well) to where nobody gets to 270 electoral votes the presidency will be left to the house to vote on. A republican controlled house with many that oppose trump would certainly consider a more sane GOP candidate like Jeb bush or any other candidate that they put forth that they believe is more qualified than trump.

Also Mr. Vice President Joe Biden just happens to be the person in charge of of certifying the results on Dec. 19. I’ve yet to read anything in our constitution or laws that would punish him or prevent him from refusing to certify the results. Does anyone have any links that show what legal action can be taken if the president of the senate just plain refuses to certify the election results?

It’s ok if you trumpublicans want to try to start a war over it too. Your guns won’t stand much of chance with no electricity, gas or anything. The military will squash your insurgency before it even starts and our society will be better without all the crazies that will be either dead or in jail for terrorist activity. In either case they won’t be able to vote anymore In most states. 😂👍🏽

Josh

A qualified Bush. Yeah, that is a mythical creature. If all Trump manages to do is end the political careers of the two criminal families of the Bush’ and Clintons he has already done enough for all Americans.

Apokolupsis

Hey genius. ever stop to think and ask yourself one simple question (and for someone of your mental capability I mean SIMPLE) in a coup do you really think the military is going to side with those that hate and disparage them like the Obama’s and Clinton’s, and how our Vets have been so taken for granted and abused by this establishment or go with a winner who respects, honors and has even appointed some of our fine military leaders in his cabinet. It’s a world wide awaking, not just America, the people are waking up and the “rulers” are petrified!!

Lisa

I don’t agree. Trump won and that popular vote count isn’t legit, they used dead people to vote with and illegal immigrants and voter machines were tampered with. You look at the huge crowds that would go to Trump rallies. Not many people showed up to hear Hillary they had to pay people to go listen to her !!! This is just an example of Crooked Hillary having crooked supporters try and manipulate people with crooked media coverage. STOP being crybabies especially since we had to live with a president picked by the Electoral college. Now it’s our turn. If we could just try and work together I think you may be happy with all of the work actually being done.

Tammy

No all electors should stay with the people we the people voted trump just because some liberal cry baby’s can’t handle it to bad , we don’t want a criminal for office , who also sold America to china no thanks . It’s we the people and they have spoken loud and clear

Robert

If there ever was a time for Clinton EC reps to change their vote for Trump, now is the time to do it. Nobody wants a weak woman in the white house who can’t run shit. She doesn’t know anything and will make our country even weaker. We are already full of pussies in the US, why celebrate it even more?

Juan Banzan

What is wrong with the Democrat people, please move on, she loss and is her fault. You don’t want Trump but you want a corrupt, liar person to be the president. Please don’t blame Trump for the wrong thing the Hillary did.

FreeMinds

My goodness why do so many of you commenters here have such poor understanding of politics? If it happens it would NOT be democrats doing it. It would be the republican selected electors and they surely won’t be voting for Clinton. It will be another more qualified republican if it happens. As much as you’ll want to blame your arch enemy the democrats, you’ll have nobody but republicans to blame if it actually happens. 😂

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