The Electoral College is seen as a frustrating anachronism by many Americans — not just Democrats who are irate that their candidates lost in two of the past four presidential elections despite getting more of the public’s vote. But given how hard it is to amend the Constitution, the Electoral College must be as democratic and transparent as possible.
This goal is badly undercut by a ruling last week from a divided three-member panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It threw out a Colorado law that compels presidential electors to vote for the candidate who won their state, writing that “states do not have the constitutional authority to interfere with presidential electors who exercise their constitutional right to vote for the president and vice president candidates of their choice.”
The U.S. Supreme Court should take up the Colorado case well before the 2020 election to lessen the risk of a constitutional crisis. In 2016, seven of the 538 electors did not vote for the person they were pledged to — and three more would have in Colorado if not for the state’s law. That’s more than in most elections. But in 2000, George W. Bush got just one more elector than the minimum needed to win the Electoral College, so “faithless electors” could have easily denied him a majority, forcing the House of Representatives to pick the next president.
Increasing uncertainty after a presidential election about who actually won is dangerous for a democracy. Here’s hoping the high court agrees.