NBC News reports:
The 538 people who cast the actual votes for president in December as part of the Electoral College are not free agents and must vote as the laws of their states direct, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The unanimous decision in the “faithless elector” case was a defeat for advocates of changing the Electoral College, who hoped a win would force a shift in the method of electing presidents toward a nationwide popular vote. But it was a win for state election officials who feared that empowering rogue electors would cause chaos.
The November general election is not actually a direct vote for the presidential candidates. Voters instead choose a slate of electors appointed in their states by the political parties. Those electors meet in December to cast their ballots, which are counted during a joint session of Congress in January.
The New York Times reports:
The votes of only 10 “faithless electors” could have changed the outcomes in five of the previous 58 presidential elections. In the 2000 election, for instance, George W. Bush beat Al Gore by five electoral votes.
Recent court decisions had come to opposite conclusions about whether electors may disregard their pledges.
Last year, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld fines of $1,000 on three Democratic electors who had cast their electoral votes in 2016 for Colin L. Powell rather than for Hillary Clinton. The majority said the Constitution allows states to insist that electors vote for their parties’ candidates.