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

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.

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  1. 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!

    • 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!!!!!

    • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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. 😂👍🏽

        • 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.

        • 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!!

    • 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.

    • 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

    • 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?

    • 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.

      • 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. 😂

  2. 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.

  3. Donald Trump won by 72 electoral votes and Hillary one by less than one million popular votes. The electoral college was set up so all states and counties get some representation. Across the board, Hillary won most all larges cites and Trump won most all other areas. The electoral votes worked just as they were designed too. The way the Hillary’s
    supporters are acting, I really don’t think they have a chance to have many faithless voters support them. Did Conservative voters go out breaking windows, burning and turning over cars and wrecking business owners personal properties when they lost the last two elections?

    • Especially in the fact that they tried to blame the attacks on those who were at the Trump rallies were Trump support. Then why was it that at every single Trump rally, people entering had to walk through a gauntlet of hate from all of Clinton’s and Sanders Brown shirts.

      Cannot wait until the 20th of January when Trump is sworn in and immediately he issues an executive order to put an end of this lawlessness and those who are upset that they did not get a trophy.

  4. As a foreigner (British) who has signed the petition, it’s because foreigners have something concerning our human rights to throw into your constitutional crisis here. It’s worth doing whether the petition succeeds on the electoral college or not. Here is the comment that foreigners should attach to our signatures:

    ” This has happened to your system twice in 16 years. The mismatch with the popular vote is an eighteenth century standard and not a modern world standard of the people choosing their government. That modern standard is in the human rights charters. You have a global responsibility not to be seen to break those. So will Hillary herself have, and human rights charters also include “innocent until proved guilty”, a standard which both these candidates themselves needed in the recent election. If Hillary gets office this way, by following the human rights charters against an older rulebook that breaches them, she stands cited as obliged to follow them in abolishing the border control system that judges foreign visitors on arrest histories even when they are innocent and not convicted. As a human rights violation whose impropriety sits alongside the electoral college’s, Congress won’t be entitled to block its abolition at this moment. Her legitimacy in office will depend on all foreigners who have backed this campaign getting holidays in the US without getting asked anything about arrest histories. Pass this on. “

      • Done. Watching that changes nothing because my point had nothing to do with Hillary’s trustable or untrustable qualities. It had to do with putting your system up against a standard of human rights observance.

    • The U.S. has the oldest and most successful Constitution in the world. Since you are british (lower case in your instance), please refrain from lecturing Americans about how to choose a government. Modern standard… bah! Our system has worked for over 200 years. I am surprised your Queen allowed you to even speak out.

      • Very successful that it caused you a civil war, and written by slaveowners it could not get rid of slavery without that war. Mainland Britain, though not Ireland, has not had a civil war in the time the USA has existed. We banned slave trading in 1833 entirely legislatively. Your electoral system has been set in stone ever since it was created. You have extended who has the popular vote, but the vote’s workngs have been too difficult to change whatever the anomalies you live with. Ours has been changed periodically by reform campaigns’ victories. Reformers who dislike the old fashioned ceatures of our system that have stuck, welcome their criticising from other European countries or Australia. In any country, patriotic offence at having your country compared with others works to block progress and ossify your system’s historic anomalies as wished by vested interests.

  5. Are these the 4 million people who backed Hillary when she said she would accept the outcome of the election?

    My apologies, that was the compulsive liar Hillary so that didn’t count.

  6. Disruption Election * Elector Revolution … I, like many Americans, was not inspired by this election season or the campaigns – and would normally not question the result – but I am deeply troubled by [4] “Un-American” factors that led to the result. These factors deserve scrutiny by the 538 Electors that are duty bound to uphold the Constitution first and foremost and (could be cause to nullify the result).

    1. JAMES COMEY: The Director of the FBI had already cleared Hillary Clinton of all criminal charges in July. His letter 11 days before the election was not based upon any material evidence to the contrary. Federal officials are required to be “impartial” in politics and especially in presidential elections. Mr. Comey is a lifelong Republican who donated money to the last two Republican presidential candidates. His unwarranted interference in this election directly contributed to the loss by the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

    2. FOREIGN COLLUSION: The Russian Foreign Ministry was in direct contact with the Trump Campaign before the election. All 17 of our intelligence agencies confirmed that Russia was responsible for the hacked data of the Democrats and Clinton’s campaign. The Russians provided this data to Wikipedia, who leaked it, and which the Trump campaign used against Hillary Clinton. ALL Americans should be concerned and appalled by a presidential candidate that colludes with a hostile foreign power to influence our election.

    3. CONSTITUTION: When a new President takes the oath of office, they swear to preserve, protect and defend the constitution. How can a new president be trusted to uphold the constitution when they have already vowed to deny the fundamental right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness (enshrined in our constitution) to several groups of Americans? How can they be trusted to protect the union when they sow the seeds of its destruction? The 538 Electors are duty bound to protect and uphold the Constitution.

    4. WILL OF THE PEOPLE: We have an election system that dates back to our founding. Most of the time it works and the winner of the Electoral College is also the winner of the Popular Vote. However in a case like this, when one candidate is the winner of the Popular Vote by over 2,000,000 votes, the Electors should consider the “will of the people” along with these other critical factors. If large sections of the population feel like their vote does not count, it could further erode trust and participation in our democracy.

    Our 538 Electors are (not required) by federal law to honor their pledge from the election. Many would agree that this has been a Disruption Election that led to a result that even many Republicans are NOT comfortable with. I urge the 538 Electors to pledge their allegiance to our United States, our Constitution and the values that bind us together as a nation – and vote for the most Qualified President.

  7. What is the purpose of the electoral college voting if they always uphold the november results? If they don’t uphold the november results, then they go against the will of the people. Either the electoral college voting in December is unnecessary or our vote in November is unnecessary. The electoral college’s only purpose is to decide whether or not to let our vote count. It’s like we’re children voting on what we want and the electoral college is our parents deciding whether or not to give us what we want. They give us the illusion of choice, when it is really up to them and they can decide to go against us any time they want. They will go against the will of the people sooner or later, otherwise there is no need for them to vote at all and just let the November results decide all elections. Will this be the year they decide to say F*** Y** to the American people and put an end to democracy?

  8. It would take bulling 59 electoral voters to put Hillary in as president as I understand this and that is very unlikely

  9. The election is over and Trump one. It is time for both Hillary and Obama to come out and do what they both said to accept the results of the election!!! There is no evidence of any voter fraud in this election, that is why the FBI does not agree with the CIA on this matter. Obama could have made an investigation 3 months ago into hacking when emails were being leaked about Hillary and her campaign staff.
    The only reason Obama is making this investigation is because Hillary did not win.
    What needs to be investigated by an impartial Justice Dept. is Hillary’s illegal server. FBI Director Comey said ” it is a 99% chance that Hillary’s illegal server was hacked by agents from 5 foreign governments.” risking the security of our country and our national secrets.

  10. It’s probably better not to use racist slave-holding democrat Virginian electors as your model for good politics.
    Those state-wide faithless electors were losing their minds over Richard Mentor Johnson because he had the gall to fall in love with an 1/8 black, 7/8 white slave he inherited, and to treat her as his wife and to treat her children with love as full heirs.

  11. Crybaby crap. Why don’t all you liberal weasels go to another country……You try to rig the election with a dishonest, despicable media and then you think electors are stupid enough to think like you.

  12. Yeah do the right thing electors and be loyal to the voters that let you speak for them. All the crap about Russia is pure bull even Obama said so on Friday, He also said machines were checked and the votes are correct. Hillary needs to honor her own words and accept the fact she lost along with the rest of you. Hillary is history so be a grown up and accept it, stop whining and suck it up.

  13. I did not hear all this crying, whining and plotting by the Republicans when Obama won. Why can’t those Clinton supporters grow up, put on their big boy or big girl panties on and get one with business – that is assuming they have business to get on with. If not, don’t worry, Trump will make sure there are a lot more jobs to go around. Oh, excuse me, maybe that is what you are afraid of huh? Having to work?

  14. Is it a crime if democrats abstain or vote trump to further take his tally to say 350 …bcos now the whole world knows the truth abt hillary and obama..they both might go to for the body count n the other for fake birth certificate

  15. It is time to say “President Trump”, he won the electoral college. If it was done by popular vote states like WY and RI would never get a voice. We have respectfully said President Obama for the past 8 year and put up with the lacking leadership skills he brought to the table. You can always hide in your safe place and play with puppies and play dough for the next 8 years.