Chiafalo v. Washington was argued on May 13, 2020 via telephone with live audio. It was decided on July 6, 2020.
This case asks: Is Washington’s law that fines presidential electors for voting for a candidate other than their party’s nominee an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment?
In 2016, Peter Chiafalo, Levi Guerra, Esther John, were nominated as presidential electors for the Washington Democratic Party. According to Washington state law, all electors must sign a pledge that they will vote for the nominee of their party. All three petitioners signed the pledge and were aware of a Washington law that states electors who break that pledge will be fined $1,000.
On election day, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, won the election in Washington state with over 54% of the popular vote. However, on December 19th when the electors met in Olympia, Chiafalo, Guerra, and John voted for Colin Powell for president and Elizabeth Warren, Maria Cantwell, and Susan Collins for vice president. They voted for candidates other than Clinton and Kaine in an attempt to disrupt the election by encouraging electors across the nation to vote for alternative candidates and send the election to the House of Representatives where states could select a president other than Donald Trump.
On December 29th, 2016, the Washington Secretary of State fined each of the petitioners $1,000 for failing to vote for the nominee of the Democratic party. This is the first time in U.S. history that a state has fined presidential electors for their failure to vote as state law required.
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