South Dakota leads 44 states in filing amicus curiae brief to join US Supreme Court cases defending state rules requiring electors to honor state laws regarding Presidential electors


PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is pleased to announce that a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from 44 states and the District of Columbia have joined two United States Supreme Court cases which will decide whether presidential electors must honor state laws when casting their electoral college ballots for President of the United States.

A group of electors in Colorado and Washington, led by Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, have challenged state laws in those two states that require electors to cast their electoral college ballots for the presidential candidate who won the state’s popular vote.

The United States Supreme Court will determine the validity of the state laws in Colorado v. Baca and Chiafalo v. Washington.

“The historical record of the Constitutional Convention, and United States Supreme Court cases since, are clear that electoral college balloting is meant to reflect the vote of the state,” said Ravnsborg. “Electoral college balloting could become a free-for-all if electors cannot be required to honor the statewide popular vote.”

Electors in South Dakota and several other states currently operate on an honor system, but South Dakota may have a need to implement rules binding electors to the state’s popular vote in the future.

The United States Supreme Court postponed the April 28 argument in the cases due to coronavirus concerns.

“With or without argument, I am confident the United States Supreme Court will decide this case before the upcoming presidential election,” Ravnsborg stated. “It is important that voters know their vote for president will count and everyone knows the status of the law before voting begins in the general election.”

Joining Attorney General Ravnsborg in the amicus brief are the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the brief is available on the website of the Supreme Court of the United States.


11 thoughts on “South Dakota leads 44 states in filing amicus curiae brief to join US Supreme Court cases defending state rules requiring electors to honor state laws regarding Presidential electors”

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  2. Great job AG!

    Putting a coalition of 44 Attorney Generals together on any issue is amazing nowadays! Let alone at the USSupreme Court!

  3. Wow! Great bi-partisan group of AG’s across the country joined up! Ravnsborg has already had a lot of success and a lot less failure that some previous AGs. Glad we voted him in and not crazy Randy!

  4. That is quite the reverse and deep group of states!

    I have been reading a lot about the case also.. some very interesting constitutional issues.

  5. So would this nullify those states who want to go with the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact?

    1. No. The amicus argues that states can hold their electors accountable to fulfilling their appointed vote. Neither case questions whether states can decide who serves as an elector, so there is little chance for anything to impact the NPVIC. Also, I doubt if it did the entire west coast and northeast would sign on. The holdouts are Arkansas, Kansas, and Texas.

    2. I’m not an attorney, but it appears to me that if SCOTUS upholds the argument that electors are “bound” to cast their vote for their party’s candidate receiving popular vote in their state, it would indeed prevent electors from casting their vote for any candidate who might win the national popular vote, yet fails to win the popular vote of their state.

      While an argument might be made that a state can require its electors to cast its ballots contrary to the popular vote of it’s citizens in support of the national popular vote, I don’t believe that a state nullifying the votes of it’s own citizens is likely be ruled constitutional. Colorado citizens have already challenged Colorado’s decision to join the National Popular Vote Compact.

      BRIEF FOR SOUTH DAKOTA AND 44 STATES AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF COLORADO AND WASHINGTON – “CONCLUSION – This Court should reverse the Tenth Circuit’s Baca decision and affirm the decision of the Washington Supreme Court in Chiafalo.

      Chiafalo v. Washington – “…the appellants were appointed by the state legislature to serve as state presidential electors. Based on the national election results, it was expected that Donald Trump would become the next President of the United States. The appellants, among other electors, announced that they would not vote for Clinton or Trump and would instead attempt to prevent Trump from receiving the minimum number of electoral college votes required to become the president…. On December 29, 2016, the Washington Secretary of State fined the appellants $1,000 each for failure to vote for the nominee of their party.”

      On May 23, 2019, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the trial court, holding that the imposed fines were constitutional under Article II, section 1, that the electors were not granted absolute discretion in casting their votes under Article II or the Twelfth Amendment nor did the fine interfere with a federal function, and that an elector acts under the authority of the State, meaning that no First Amendment right is violated when a state imposes a fine based on an elector’s violation of their pledge.”

      1. Clearly you aren’t an attorney. Whether states can hold electors accountable to vote as determined by the state is not the same question as how states can determine their presidential electors.

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