In win for Trump, federal court rules that states cannot tell Electoral College members how to cast their votes

Since President Donald Trump’s Electoral College win and popular vote loss in 2016, more than a dozen Democrat-led states have entered into an agreement — fittingly known as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPV) — to pledge all of their electoral votes in 2020 to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote, regardless of how ballots in the state are cast.

But the Washington Free Beacon reports that gambit to sidestep the Consitution was just undercut by a circuit court ruling that makes it clear that state electors aren’t bound to vote as mandated by their state, and may instead cast their votes at their own discretions. And that can only mean good things for President Trump.

Bait-and-switch

The decision came from the three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on a case stemming from the 2016 presidential election. According to reports, an elector from Colorado — Michael Baca — was replaced by state officials after he cast his vote for former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, rather than the candidate who won Colorado, Hillary Clinton.

Baca apparently hoped that his move would put Trump short of the votes necessary to win, while still denying Clinton a victory.

Baca’s vote earned him a prompt dismissal from Colorado’s then-Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who nullified Baca’s ballot and replaced him with an alternate elector who adhered to state law and ultimately voted for Clinton.

Laying down the law

A lawsuit was subsequently filed alleging that the state mishandled the situation. Now, the three-judge panel has ruled 2-1 that “the state’s removal of Mr. Baca and nullification of his vote were unconstitutional.”

In their 125-page ruling, the judges pointed directly to the U.S. Constitution to argue that a state can’t circumvent an elector’s constitutional rights.

“Article II and the Twelfth Amendment provide presidential electors the right to cast a vote for President and Vice President with discretion,” two of the three judges concluded. “And the state does not possess countervailing authority to remove an elector and to cancel his vote in response to the exercise of that Constitutional right.”

The judges went on: “Even where an elector violates a state-required pledge to vote for the winners of the state popular election, there is nothing in the federal Constitution that allows the state to remove that elector or to nullify his votes.”

Looking ahead

While this court ruling applied directly to the 2016 election, it has serious ramifications as we look ahead in 2020 — especially in light of the aforementioned National Popular Vote (NPV) pact, which Colorado is a part of.

This court ruling affirms that regardless of how a state pledges its electoral votes, electors ultimately have free rein to cast their votes as they please — whether that be for the national popular vote winner, the winner of their own state, or somebody else not even on the ballot.

In other words, Colorado and the other blue states that have joined the compact have no standing to mandate which candidate their electors will vote for. And that’s one less hurdle in the way of Trump’s victory in 2020.

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