are members of the United States Electoral College
not cast their electoral votes for the people they have pledged to
vote for. Faithless electors are pledged electors and thus
different from unpledged
On 158 occasions, electors have cast their votes for President
or Vice President
manner different from that prescribed by the legislature of the
state they represented. Of those, 71 votes were changed because the
original candidate died before the elector was able to cast a vote.
Two votes were not cast at all when electors chose to abstain from
casting their electoral vote for any candidate. The remaining 85
were changed by the elector's personal interest, or perhaps by
accident. Usually, the faithless electors act alone. An exception was the
election of 1836, in which 23 Virginia electors
conspired to change their vote together.
Political parties choose their slate of electors in each state, and
they generally select party members with a reputation for high
loyalty to the party and its candidate. Moreover, a faithless
elector runs a risk of censure and other political retaliation from
his party. Thus, the parties have generally been successful in
keeping their electors faithful, leaving out the cases in which a
candidate died before the elector was able to cast a vote.
Twenty-four states have laws to punish faithless electors.
faithless elector has ever been punished, the constitutionality of
state pledge laws was brought before the Supreme
Court in 1952 (Ray v. Blair
, 343 U.S. 214). The court ruled in
favor of the state's right to require electors to pledge to vote
for the candidate to whom they are pledged, as well as to remove
electors who refuse to pledge. Once the elector has voted, their vote can
only be changed in states such as Michigan and Minnesota, where votes other than those pledged are rendered
However, in all twenty-four states, a faithless
elector may only be punished after he or she votes. The Supreme
Court has ruled that, as electors are chosen via state elections,
they act as a function of the state, not the federal government.
Therefore states have the right to govern electors. The
constitutionality of state laws punishing electors for actually
casting a faithless vote, rather than refusing to pledge, has never
been decided by the Supreme Court.
To date, faithless electors have never changed the otherwise
expected outcome of the election. No faithless elector has ever
been punished or charged with a crime.
List of faithless electors
Electors do not have to vote for the candidate who received the
most votes in any particular state. The following is a list of all
faithless electors (most recent first). The number preceding each
entry is the number of faithless electors for the given year.
2000 to present
election: A Minnesota elector, pledged for Democrats John Kerry and John
Edwards, cast his or her presidential vote for
], rather than
Kerry, presumably by accident. (All of Minnesota's electors cast
their vice presidential ballots for John
.) Minnesota's electors cast secret ballots, so unless
one of the electors claims responsibility, it is unlikely that the
identity of the faithless elector will ever be known. As a result
of this incident, Minnesota Statutes were amended to provide for
public balloting of the electors' votes and invalidation of a vote
cast for someone other than the candidate to whom the elector is
Elector Barbara Lett-Simmons
, pledged for
Democrats Al Gore
and Joe Lieberman
, cast no electoral votes as a
protest of Washington D.C.'s
lack of statehood
, which she described as the federal
district's "colonial status."
1972 to 1996
Margaret Leach, pledged for Democrats
Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen, instead cast her votes for the
candidates in the reverse of their positions on the national
ticket; her presidential vote went to Bentsen and her vice
presidential vote to Dukakis.
election: In Illinois, the
electors, pledged to Ronald Reagan and
George H. W. Bush
conducted their vote in a secret ballot. When the electors voted
for Vice President, one of the votes was for Geraldine Ferraro
, the Democratic nominee.
After several minutes of confusion, a second ballot was taken. Bush
won unanimously in this ballot, and it was this ballot that was
reported to Congress.
election: Washington Elector Mike Padden,
pledged for Republicans Gerald Ford and
Bob Dole, cast his presidential electoral
vote for Ronald Reagan, who had
challenged Ford for the Republican nomination.
He cast his
vice presidential vote, as pledged, for Dole.
election: Virginia Elector Roger
MacBride, pledged for Republicans Richard Nixon and Spiro
Agnew, cast his electoral votes for Libertarian candidates
John Hospers and Theodora Nathan.
MacBride's vote for
Nathan was the first electoral vote cast for a woman in U.S.
history. MacBride became the Libertarian candidate for President in
1912 to 1968
Lloyd W. Bailey
, pledged for Republicans Richard Nixon
, cast his votes for American Independent Party
candidates George Wallace
election: Oklahoma Elector Henry
, pledged for
Republicans Richard Nixon
and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
, cast his
presidential electoral vote for Democratic non-candidate Harry Flood Byrd
and his vice presidential
electoral vote for Republican Barry
. (Fourteen unpledged
also voted for Byrd for president, but supported
, then a Democrat, for
election: Alabama Elector W.
pledged for Democrats Adlai
and Estes Kefauver
cast his votes for Walter Burgwyn
and Herman Talmadge
election: Two Tennessee electors were on both the Democratic Party and the
Democratic Party slates.
When the Democratic Party slate
won, one of these electors voted for the Democratic nominees
and Alben Barkley
. The other, Preston Parks
, cast his votes for States' Rights Democratic
candidates Strom Thurmond
and Fielding Wright
, making him a
presidential candidate James S.
died before the election.
Eight Republican electors had pledged their votes to him but voted
for Nicholas Murray Butler
1860 to 1896
: The Democratic Party and the People’s Party both ran
William Jennings Bryan
their presidential candidate, but ran different candidates for Vice
President. The Democratic Party nominated Arthur Sewall
and the People’s Party nominated
Thomas E. Watson
. The People’s Party won 31 electoral
votes but four of those electors voted with the Democratic ticket,
supporting Bryan as President and Sewall as Vice President.
: In Oregon, three electors voted for Democrat Grover Cleveland
, and one for the
third-party Populist candidate. All four were pledged to Republican
President Benjamin Harrison
failed to get reelected. Also, in North Dakota, one elector voted
for the Democrats and one for the Populists, while the Republicans
had won the state.
: 63 electors for Horace
changed their votes after Greeley's death, which
occurred before the electoral vote could be cast. Greeley's
remaining three electors cast their presidential votes for Greeley
and had their votes discounted by Congress.
: 4 electors in New Jersey, pledged for Northern
Democrat Stephen A. Douglas
, voted for the eventual victor:
Republican candidate Abraham
1812 to 1836
election: The Democratic Party nominated Richard Mentor Johnson of Kentucky as their vice presidential candidate.
electors from Virginia refused to support Johnson with their votes upon
learning of the allegation that he had lived with an
There was no majority in the
Electoral College and the decision was deferred to the Senate,
which supported Johnson as the Vice President.
election: Two National Republican Party electors from the state
of Maryland refused to vote for presidential candidate Henry Clay and did not cast a vote for him or for
his running mate. All 30 electors from Pennsylvania refused to support the Democratic vice presidential
candidate Martin Van Buren, voting
instead for William
election: Seven (of nine) electors from Georgia refused to vote for vice presidential candidate
All seven cast
their vice presidential votes for William Smith
: William Plumer
to vote for Democratic
candidate James Monroe
but he cast his vote for John Quincy
who was also a Democratic
, but was not a candidate in the 1820 election. Some
historians contend that Plumer did not feel that the Electoral
College should unanimously elect any President other than George
Washington, but this claim is disputed. (Monroe lost another three
votes because three electors died before casting ballots and were
: Three electors pledged to vote for Federalist
presidential candidate Jared
voted for Democratic
Republican Elbridge Gerry
Ohio elector did not vote.
election: Six electors from New York were pledged to vote for Democratic
Republican James Madison as
President and George
Clinton as Vice President.
Instead, they voted for
Clinton to be President, with three voting for Madison as Vice
President and the other three voting for James Monroe
to be Vice President.
York elector Anthony
Lispenard demanded to be able to cast a secret ballot, rather
than a public one as state law required, apparently because he
wanted to cast both of his votes for Aaron
Burr instead of one each for Burr and Thomas Jefferson.
This demand was
necessary to force Burr's election as President, since voting for
Burr and someone else would have (in theory) simply created a
deadlock in the electoral college and a run-off vote, which
Jefferson would have likely won. However, Lispenard's demand was
rejected by the state, and he voted as pledged, for Jefferson and
Burr. Ironically, errors in the Democratic-Republican voting
strategy meant that Jefferson and Burr ended up tying 73-73 in the
electoral college, meaning that Lispenard could have caused Burr to
become President all along by simply not casting his second vote,
or voting for someone who was not a candidate, although he had no
way of knowing this would be the case when he voted.
election: Samuel Miles, an elector
from Pennsylvania, was pledged to vote for Federalist presidential
candidate John Adams, but voted for
Republican candidate Thomas
He cast his other presidential vote as
pledged for Thomas Pinckney
election took place prior to the passage of the 12th
, so there were not separate ballots for president and