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Faithless Electors: Chiafalo v. Washington

The Electoral College is one of the more difficult institutions to understand in the U.S. Constitution, but it serves a vitally important role. The Electoral College, not a national popular vote, selects our executive. The College has served this function since the country’s founding. Recently, two lawsuits have reached the Supreme Court that concern whether or not states can coerce members of the Electoral College to vote for the candidate that he or she pledged themselves to. In this eLesson, students will explore one of these cases-Chiafalo v. Washington-and determine how they think the Court should rule.

Resources:

Handout A: Additional Amendments to the Constitution Handout B: The Electoral College Handout C: Justices to Weigh the Constitutionality of “faithless electors” Clause

Directions:

Have students read the text of the Twelfth Amendment located on Handout A and also watch the video located at Handout B in order to understand how the Electoral College process works. Then have them 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?

Have students read Handout C and then participate in a class discussion about the case of Chiafalo v. Washington. Use the following questions as a guide for the class as needed.

  1. What constitutional questions are raised in this case?
  2. What are some arguments used by each side in the case?
  3. How do you think the Supreme Court should rule in this case?
  4. Should the Supreme Court look to the secondary effects of a law in determining if it is constitutional or not? In other words, should the Court consider the potential disorder that may occur if it rules that states cannot fine faithless electors?