Myth #1: Electors filter the passions of the people
College students first learning about the Electoral College will often defend the system by citing its original purpose: to provide a check on the public in case they make a poor choice for president.
But electors no longer work as independent agents nor as agents of the state legislature. They’re chosen for their party loyalty by party conventions or party leaders.
In presidential elections between 1992 and 2012, over 99 percent of electors kept their pledges to a candidate, and there were only two “faithless electors.” One Gore elector from Washington, D.C. cast a blank ballot in 2000 to protest a lack of congressional representation for District of Columbia residents. And one Kerry elector in Minnesota in 2004 voted for vice presidential candidate John Edwards for both president and vice president – an apparent mistake, since none of Minnesota’s electors admitted to the action afterward.
There have been scattered faithless electors in past elections, but they’ve never influenced the outcome of a presidential election. Since winner-take-all laws began in the 1820s, electors have rarely acted independently or against the wishes of the party that chose them. A majority of states even have lawsrequiring the partisan electors to keep their pledges when voting.
Yes, some of this year’s Republican electors may not have been big supporters of Donald Trump’s candidacy. But despite the best efforts of some Clinton voters to get them to switch sides, there’s no evidence that some electors may consider voting for someone like Paul Ryan to prevent a Trump majority and throw the election into the U.S. House of Representatives.