A bill that would end “faithless electors” for California electoral college members during presidential elections was passed by the Assembly on Thursday 76-0.
Senate Bill 103, authored by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), would specifically have each party and each group of electors pledged to a president and vice president to select alternate electors. The electors and alternate electors would also need to pledge to vote for the candidates who won in the state, or successor candidates should a death or withdrawal before the election happens.
According to the bill, also known as the Uniform Faithful Presidential Electors Act, any elector who votes for a candidate who did not win are to have their vote be vacated in favor of an alternate. Being replaced by an alternate would also remove the current fine and punishments for faithless electors by state law.
While there has never been a faithless elector in state history, and a large fine and up to three years of jail time for any elector who votes for anyone but the winner. However, recent elections, such as the 2016 presidential election, which had the most faithless electors vote since the 1896 election, and the 2020 election, which brought concern to many states, including California, that electors might switch votes to Trump in an attempt to steer the election, have brought the voting practice into a new light. In writing the bill, Dodd reiterated the need to have electors select the candidate that won the vote in the state.
Faithless electors bill
“We must protect the legitimacy of our free election process and prevent extreme partisanship from denying the will of the voters,” expressed Senator Dodd on Thursday. “Today we take a step toward ensuring electors uphold their responsibilities and do not go rogue, threatening the underpinnings of our democracy. I thank my fellow legislators for sending this bill onto the governor.”
While many though significant opposition would sprout up against the bill, both the Assembly and Senate joined together in a bipartisan effort to pass the bill. This included a 38-0 Senate vote in April and a 7-0 Assembly Elections Committee vote in June. While the bill stalled for the next month on the suspension file, SB 103 returned for a vote on Thursday, passing 76-0.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of bills like these pop up since 2016 when 10 electoral college members voted for people such as Colin Powell, Bernie Sanders, Ron Paul, and Faith Spotted Eagle,” said presidential election researcher Kate Griffith to the Globe on Friday. “In fact, laws in other states similar to this California election stopped 3 more from voting against Clinton in 2016.”
“The bipartisan vote also doesn’t surprise me. Even if California is part of the blue wall, Republicans don’t want faithless electors there to go to jail or be fined and Democrats don’t want to lose. The parties also know if there is ever an election where the GOP wins and the Democrat loses, they don’t want the same stigmas. It’s also the right thing to do. The state voted for one candidate, so they should win the state.”
“Right now there are 14 other states that void the vote if an elector doesn’t vote for the winner, but California may also influence others to do the same. They often do. It’s the way elections are going now.”
SB 103 is to next go before Governor Gavin Newsom for either his signature or his veto, although he is widely expected to sign it into law.
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