Presidential Elections

The Electoral College

What is a “faithless elector”?

A faithless elector is the term used to describe an elector in the electoral college who does not follow the will expressed by the popular vote in a presidential election. Instead, he or she casts an electoral vote for another candidate. For example, in the presidential election of 1976, Republicans carried the state of Washington; however, one Republican elector from that state refused to vote for Republican presidential nominee Gerald Ford. The most recent example occurred in 1988, when a Democratic elector for West Virginia voted for Lloyd Bentsen for president and Michael Dukakis for vice president—instead of the other way around. However, the vote of a faithless elector has never influenced the results of a presidential election. Although most states legally require electors to vote for the candidates to whom they are pledged, the U.S. Constitution allows electors discretion in the voting process.


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