The decision will prevent most of the 538 electoral voters from sidestepping the voters’ choices and seeking to change the results of the presidential race when carrying out their duties a month after the election.
The court ruled in cases from Washington and Colorado, where challenges to the rules for presidential electors resulted in opposite lower court rulings.
“The Constitution’s text and the nation’s history both support allowing a state to enforce an elector’s pledge to support his party’s nominee – and the state voters’ choice – for president,” Associate Justice Elena Kagan wrote for a unanimous court.
In the Washington case, she said, “the state instructs its electors that they have no ground for reversing the vote of millions of its citizens. That direction accords with the Constitution – as well as with the trust of a nation that here, We the People rule.”
During the last oral argument of the court’s current term in May, justices on both sides of the ideological aisle expressed concern that electors could be bribed, particularly by the losing party in a close election. But they also expressed concern about the limits of state powers to force electors’ hands.
One thing they knew: Failure to act could put the nation in a bind if a razor-thin margin in November gives electors inordinate power to upend the election. Never before has this happened, but 10 electors were disloyal or tried to be in 2016, enough to change the results of five previous presidential elections.