Secretary of State responds to today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on faithless electors

OLYMPIA — Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Washington state’s “faithless elector” laws. The Office of the Secretary of State won the lower-court rulings in both the state Superior and Supreme courts, and these decisions were supported today by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman was confident that Washington state’s laws would be reaffirmed. “I am pleased to see that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld our role to ensure the popular vote of the people is represented in the electoral votes cast,” she said.

The case, Chiafalo et. al. v. Washington, involved four Washington state electors who voted for candidates for president and vice president other than U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine following the 2016 presidential election. State law at the time mandated a $1,000 fine for each of the faithless electors. Three of the electors sued the state, alleging it had no authority to enforce their pledge to vote in line with the popular vote of the people. Today's decision confirms the state has a responsibility to ensure the electors chosen must honor their pledge to represent the outcome of the state's popular vote.

The faithless elector law was adopted by the state legislature following the 1976 presidential election.

The Washington State Superior Court, the Washington State Supreme Court, and now the U.S. Supreme Court have all agreed that a person pledged to vote an electoral ballot on behalf of the voters of the state of Washington must follow the will of the voters.

​In 2019, the state legislature passed Senate Bill 5074 updating the process for enforcing the pledge taken by each elector to vote as the state's voters did. Under the new law, if an elector does not follow the will of Washington state voters, their position is declared vacant, and an alternate elector is selected in their place.

Washington’s Office of Secretary of State oversees a number of areas within state government, including managing state elections, registering corporations and charities, and governing the use of the state flag and state seal. The office also manages the State Archives and the State Library, documents extraordinary stories in Washington’s history through Legacy Washington, oversees the Combined Fund Drive for charitable giving by state employees, and administers the state’s Address Confidentiality Program to help protect survivors of crime.