Moment in Voter Education: What Is a Faithless Elector?
Electors in the Electoral College have faithfully voted for their party’s presidential and vice presidential nominees. However, occasionally they do not.
Electors who cast a vote for someone other than their party’s nominee are often called “faithless electors.”
Faithless electors have never changed the outcome of a presidential election.
To date, only one elector has cast a vote for the opposite party’s nominee instead of his own in a close contest. In 1796, the very first contested presidential election, Samuel Miles, a Federalist elector from Pennsylvania, voted for Democratic-Republican candidate Thomas Jefferson instead of Federalist candidate John Adams.
Altogether, there have been 23,507 electoral votes counted across 58 presidential elections.
Only 90 electors have cast “deviant” votes, not ordinary votes for the presidential nominee of the elector’s political party. Only one elector has ever voted for their nominee’s opponent. More than two-thirds of deviant votes (63) were due to the death of the party's nominee. Of the remaining 27 deviant votes, 24 were cast for another candidate, 3 of which were cancelled or retracted due to the operation of state law; and only one cast for the opposite party’s nominee in a close election.
The final three deviant votes consist of one abstention, one abnormal vote (switching the presidential and vice presidential nominees) and one apparent accident.
Presented by FairVote.org
Ashley Houghton, Communications Director
Ashley@fairvote.org / 301-793-6604
FairVote Statement on 2021 Voter Choice Act
FairVote, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for electoral reform in the United States, responded to the reintroduction of the 2021 Voter Choice Act. The Voter Choice Act provides $40 million in federal grants to cover up to 50 percent of the cost for local and state governments that choose to adopt ranked choice voting.
“The Voter Choice Act will help scale the fastest-growing election reform in the country. Every community deserves the opportunity to try ranked choice voting elections, and the Voter Choice Act lowers the barrier to participation."
FairVote is a nonpartisan organization seeking better elections for all. We research and advance voting reforms that make democracy more functional and representative for every American.