The New York Times published an article in their Sidebar section yesterday, “Faithless Electors Could Tip the 2020 Election: Will the Supreme Court Stop Them?” and it references the petition, a Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court, requesting a speedy review regarding the question of whether so-called Faithless Electors are independent actors or are bound to vote as pledged.
The petition points out that in the 2016 Presidential Election, there were seven (7!) such defections. Thus far in our history, no Faithless Elector(s) has ever changed what might be regarded as the result of a presidential election. But as the petition points out:
“A swing by that same number of electors  would have changed the results in five of fifty-eight prior presidential elections” [emphasis mine].
It goes on to note:
“And as the demographics of the United States indicate that contests will become even closer, there is a significant probability that such swings could force this Court to resolve the question of electoral freedom within the context of an ongoing contest.”
Meaning that it would be best to decide the matter now ahead of the contest rather than in the heat of a presidential election, when it is bound to look partisan and thus illegitimate (Bush v. Gore anyone?).
I did not include the fact about Electors potentially overturning 5 elections in my thriller Faithless Elector (pub. March 2016) because it was published before the 2016 election and these 10 defections. Indeed, neither Trump nor Clinton appear in its pages. I wanted the novel to be free of partisanship. It’s a taut thriller with engaging, determined characters set a against a background that exposes the latent weaknesses and potential for mischief in the Electoral College system. The revelation that someone is trying to manipulate the Electoral vote and steal the presidency sets the characters on a dangerous path and pits them against deadly opposition. Based on the good reviews, as well as readers’ generous responses at book fairs and over social media, it seems I have achieved that goal.
Because while its setting is the 2016 election, the latent weaknesses remain in place, as the Writ of Certiorari/Petition makes clear. The petition, in fact, candidly states what I proposed (albeit fictionally) when I wrote Faithless: that in a close election, where only a few votes separate the two candidates, politics of a kind we would not regard as legitimate could determine the outcome.
James McCrone is the author of the Imogen Trager political suspense-thrillers Faithless Elector and Dark Network. The third book, Emergency Powers, is coming soon, and he is at work on a fourth book called Bastard Verdict (w/t) .
Find them through Indybound.org. They are also available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s Books.
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