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Photo: Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that states can penalize faithless electors, the members of the Electoral College who do not support the winner of their state's popular vote in a presidential election.

Why it matters: The 2016 presidential election saw 10 electors vote for someone other than their state's chosen candidate — highlighting how faithless electors could have the potential to swing an election.

  • 32 states and Washington, D.C. require their electors to cast their Electoral College votes for the winner of their respective statewide popular vote.
  • Before 2016, a modern presidential election had never seen more than one faithless elector — prompting states to move ahead with their legal challenge.

What they're saying: "A State follows in the same tradition if, like Washington, it chooses to sanction an elector for breaching his promise. Then too, the State instructs its electors that they have no ground for reversing the vote of millions of its citizens. That direction accords with the Constitution — as well as with the trust of a Nation that here, We the People rule," Justice Elena Kagan wrote on the court's ruling.

The big picture: During oral arguments before the court last month, Colorado's attorney general argued that a loss by the states could "occasion a constitutional crisis," per CNN.

  • The justices also expressed worries that ruling against the states could lead to wide-scale bribing of members of the Electoral College — with little to no recourse.
  • Representatives for the electors had argued that the Constitution "requires that presidential electors be free to cast votes without interference or sanction."

The bottom line: With the Electoral College already taking heat from both parties, the ruling doesn't upend the status quo, granting voters' peace of mind to know that electors will follow through with their wishes.

Read the ruling.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
Oct 6, 2020 - World

Busy month for democracy: 14 countries vote before U.S.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern voting early in Auckland. Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

We are at the onset of a very busy month for global democracy.

The big picture: By the time Americans go to the polls on Nov. 3, the world will have seen 12 national elections and three high-stakes referenda over the course of one month. Earlier pandemic-related delays are partially responsible for the electoral cluster.

Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategy

Biden signs executive orders on Jan. 21. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday signed a slew of executive orders to address the coronavirus pandemic, including an interstate face mask mandate and an order to renew supplies of PPE, testing materials and vaccines through the Defense Production Act.

Why it matters: The stakes are highest for Biden’s vaccination effort. Several states cannot keep up with demand.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

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