Power of State Legislatures

…State Legislatures have the authority to replace their state’s appointed electors after the popular vote with their own instead of following the decision of the parties.  Florida’s Republican Legislature was prepared to do so in 2000 if the Supreme Court had not decided in Bush’s favor in Bush vs. Gore.  Consider this excerpt from the Washington Post (July 19, 2004):


“Suppose that some of the electors -- the people who under our constitutional system conduct the real presidential election some weeks after voters go to the polls -- aren't actually selected by the voters.

Impossible? Not if you give a close reading to the Supreme Court's decision in the case of Bush v. Gore, which finally settled the presidential election of 2000, if not to everyone's satisfaction. Under that decision, there is no guarantee that the electors who are decisive in choosing the next president of the United States will themselves be selected by the people of the United States.

That's because the justices ruled in that case that state legislatures have unlimited authority to determine whether citizens in their respective states shall be allowed to vote for president at all.

"The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States," the court said, "unless and until the state legislature chooses a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint members of the Electoral College."

Imagine, now, a state in which the same party controls both houses of the legislature and the governor's office. There would presumably be no partisan impediment to the state legislature, with the governor's approval, deciding that the majority party in state government shall control the state's electoral vote, regardless of any popular vote in the state.

The ordinary protection against this sort of usurpation is presumably the "outrage factor" -- the idea that no legislature would risk the wrath of the citizenry by usurping their right to vote. But in 2000, unfortunately, Florida demonstrated that legislators might well be willing to risk the outrage if they have a case, no matter how contestable, that the electors they are choosing actually do represent majority sentiment in the state."

Unlucky Luck

Ignoring Your Vote

More Options

Vague Values

Electoral Replacements

Electoral Tie

Favorite Son Effect

A Few States Wins

Constitutional Residence

State Size

Special Interests


Electoral College Table of Contents

July 13th 2009
Albatross of U.S. democracy
Indianapolis Star

FairVote research is cited in support of the National Popular Vote plan in Indiana, because "every vote cast for president should be equally important and equally coveted, whether it originates in California, Connecticut or Crawfordsville."

July 9th 2009
Winner-take-all can elect a second-place president
San Diego Union-Tribune

The founder of National Popular Vote lays out the shortcomings and injustices of the Electoral College system, and shows why the National Popular Vote plan is the right solution.

May 17th 2009
Why states should adopt the National Popular Vote plan for president
San Diego Union-Tribune

FairVote's Rob Richie writes that the Electoral College deepens political inequality, and explains why the National Popular Vote plan is our best opportunity to ensure that every vote for president is equally valued.

May 14th 2009
Let's Make Every Vote Count
The Nation

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the Nation magazine, highlights FairVote's research in an important piece on the "broad support" growing in the states for the National Popular Vote plan to elect the president.

May 13th 2009
Representative Democracy: Two Steps Forward
The Daily Herald

The executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute heralds the passage of the National Popular Vote bill in Washington state.

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