The Washington Secretary of State’s Office has sent $1,000 fine notices to the four state “faithless electors” who voted for presidential candidates other than the one who won the state, Hillary Clinton. Presidential electors are selected by state parties and their ballots actually determine who is president. They are supposed to vote for the candidate of their party who wins the most votes in their respective states. In Washington, they sign a pledge to do just that. Failing to do so results in a $1,000 fine.
It is apparently the first time in some 40 years such a fine has been enforced. Faithless electors used to be a very rare thing, and this year, Washington’s were more faithless than any other state’s.
Happy New Year, guys. You owe a grand a piece!
That’s not much, really. Certainly it wasn’t enough to deter the four Washington electors who decided to zig instead of zag. Before the election, one elector, Robert Satiacum, Jr., announced there was no way he would support Hillary Clinton if she won the state. He was a Bernie Sanders backer. He’s also an activist, radio host and outspoken on Native American causes like Standing Rock. Democrats worried that in a close electoral college race, his failure to support Clinton could tip the Electoral College vote to Donald Trump. Democrats were apoplectic at the prospect.
It was bad enough Vladimir Putin was busy trying to undermine the faith of the American people in the electoral process. Or that the GOP has undertaken a nationwide campaign to make it harder for folks to vote—especially the poor and people of color. It’s lousy that our national turnout is so low—the worst in 20 years; nearly half of eligible voters (45%) passed on voting at all. Add not being able to count on the electoral college into the mix and you have the ingredients for a toxic stew.
Satiacum’s possible apostasy turned out not to matter, numbers-wise. Clinton won Washington, but losing electoral votes here wasn’t going to change the election outcome as Donald Trump had more than enough to win. Satiacum voted for Faith Spotted Eagle, a Native American activist. Three other state electors also bolted, voting for retired general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a prominent African American Republican. That seemed oddly symbolic. Powell is remembered by many as the guy who went to the United Nations and gave false information justifying the invasion of Iraq. Why were Democratic electors supporting that guy? Perhaps because he was one of the more prominent Republicans to support Clinton and oppose Trump.
While many don’t like the Electoral College, it is part of our constitutional system. I’d be happy to see it go away. But Clinton won the Washington state Democratic primary, and more crucially she won the general election here. The majority of voters wanted Hillary Clinton for president and she should have received all 12 of the state’s electoral votes. Instead, a third of Washington’s electors threw Clinton’s Washington voters’ ballots in the trash bin. They chose to make personal political statements instead of reflecting the will of the voters.
Civil disobedience is legitimate as an act of conscience. But if you break the rules, taking the consequences is part of the moral act. For their votes to mean something, they should pay the price. I hope they promptly pay their bills. And next time, state Democrats should do a much better job of selecting—and vetting—its electors.