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Faithless Electors and Electing the Executive

On the surface, casting a ballot for president on Election Day appears to be the definitive action in the process of electing our nation’s executive. However, there is a lot going on behind-the-scenes. The Electoral College sits at the center of our federal election system, and while it is one of the more difficult institutions to understand in the U.S. Constitution, it serves a vitally important role. It is the Electoral College, not a national popular vote, that selects our executive. The College has served this function since the country’s founding.

Resources:

Handout A: The Electoral College

Handout B: About the Electors

Handout C: Faithless Electors Could Decide the Tight 2020 Election

Directions:

Have students watch Handout A: The Electoral College and answer the following questions.

  1. In your own words, describe the process of how the Electoral College selects our president and vice-president.
  2. Why did the Founders create the Electoral College?
  3. What are some arguments used for why the Electoral College should continue to be used?
  4. What are some arguments used for why the Electoral College should be abolished?
  5. Of the two above arguments, which do you agree with more? Why?

Next, have students read Handout B: About the Electors and answer the following questions.

  1. Describe in your own words the role of political parties in selecting electors.
  2. Describe in your own words the role of voters in selecting electors.
  3. What restrictions exist concerning who electors may vote for?
  4. In the case of Chiafalo v. Washington (2020), the Supreme Court ruled that it is constitutional for states to place restrictions on who electors can vote for. Do you agree with this decision? Why or why not?

Use Handout C: Faithless Electors Could Decide the Tight 2020 Election to lead a class discussion on the topic of faithless electors, and whether they are a valid expression of free expression on behalf of the elector, or a violation of democracy.