Thursday, October 13, 2016
Why Faithless Electors Should Be a Source of Shame
As Politico reported, Satiacum has announced that, despite being one of the Democratic Party's electors for the state of Washington, a state that Hillary Clinton seems certain to win on November 8th, he is not committed to voting for Clinton when the electoral college convenes, and is apparently deliberating whether or not he can vote for the nominee. Satiacum has stated that he thinks of Clinton and Trump as the same person, and that he can't in good conscience vote for her. Satiacum was a very strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, and despite threats of a fine and having signed a pledge that he would support Clinton/Kaine, Satiacum seems intent on voting against Clinton.
This is a problem, and a problem in a few ways, but first it has to be said that what Satiacum is doing here is not a political protest that should be honored, but one that he should be ashamed of entertaining. Faithless electors have been around for centuries, though considering the number of electoral colleges that have convened, are relatively uncommon. In recent years, though, when they've been cast it has usually been a sign of protest that an elector voted for a candidate, like the 2000 election where a DC elector kept her ballot blank because she wanted to protest a lack of congressional representation in Congress or a 1988 elector who voted Bentsen/Dukakis to protest the winner-take-all aspect of the electoral college. The reality is that neither of these elections were decided by a faithless elector, but (despite what the Republican nominee may tell you) principles matter, and Robert Satiacum is violating a public trust by not voting for Hillary Clinton.
He's violating it because he signed an oath pledging that, should Sec. Clinton and Sen. Kaine win in his home state, he would honor the will of the voters of Washington by casting a ballot for them when the electoral college convenes. To not do so violates a sacred public belief that your vote matters. Satiacum is taking the rights of hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps even millions, away by not fulfilling his obligation. If he isn't able to fulfill this obligation, he should resign as an elector immediately and be replaced by someone who can fulfill their pledge. It's that simple.
There's no honor here-Satiacum isn't protesting in the general way that he normally is expected to be. He isn't some member of Congress or a Governor who will have to face the voters again come a subsequent election day. The overwhelming majority of Democrats in the state of Washington will never hear of him, because he's simply there to carry out a prosaic, antiquated, but somehow still powerful position a few weeks after the election. Satiacum is not protesting with his own vote or personage, he's not deciding to simply vote against Clinton on Election Day, which is his constitutional right, but he is instead casting aside the will of the people because he thinks he knows better. And he doesn't-this is America, and the majority should rule in this situation.
I have long held issues with the practice of the electoral college, particularly when it comes to the electors. I personally feel that electors should be chosen directly by campaigns after proper vetting (top-level supporters and volunteers of the campaign), as that would ensure they are in fact going to vote the way of the people should their candidates be so fortunate as to win. Electors should simply be emissaries of their state, and should only be allowed to stretch from voting for their candidates in the most extraordinary of cases. About the only thing I can think of is if one of the candidates were to die prior to the Electoral College convening (a situation that has happened on two different occasions in American history), then the Electoral College would fulfill their duty of selecting a candidate, likely one chosen by the still-living member of the ticket. Otherwise, there's really no reason for the electoral college to exist as an actual body, instead of just a mathematical allotment. There's a lot to correct about the Electoral College (it's winner-takes-all system is disenfranchising, particularly in swing states, while one can question whether it valuing a Wyoming voters more than a California voter is also a conversation worth having), but this is a simple one. Electors should be required by law (with something steeper than a $1000 fine), to fulfill their obligation of voting for whom their state chose, or resign. What Satiacum is threatening to do is selfish, undemocratic, and a slap-in-the-face to every voter in Washington who casts a ballot for the ticket he swore he would support. To do anything less than vote for Clinton and Kaine when the electoral college convenes would be a betrayal to the voters he promised to respect. Either carry out that duty or resign.