Federal appeals court rules Colorado Electoral College electors don’t have to vote for winner

DENVER — The 10th Circuit Federal Appeals Court in Denver ruled this week that Michael Baca, a 2016 presidential elector, was within his rights when he decided to vote for John Kasich and not Hillary Clinton.

Baca, a Democrat, was trying to thwart Donald Trump from becoming president by voting for a  moderate Republican instead of Clinton, who won Colorado.

At the time, Secretary of State Wayne Williams removed Baca and replaced him with someone who would vote for Clinton.

“Secretary Williams impermissibly interfered with Mr. Baca’s exercise of his right to vote as a presidential elector,” U.S. Circuit Court Judge Carolyn Baldwin McHugh said in the 2-1 decision.

“Specifically, Secretary Williams acted unconstitutionally by removing Mr. Baca and nullifying his vote for failing to comply with the vote-binding provision.”

Williams left office in January after losing to Jenna Griswold in November.

“This court decision takes power from Colorado voters and sets a dangerous precedent,” Griswold said in a statement.

“Our nation stands on the principle of one person, one vote. We are reviewing this decision with our attorneys, and will vigorously protect Colorado voters.”

The ruling likely will need clarification from the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future.

Then-Attorney General Cynthia Coffman decided in August 2017 not to prosecute the faithless elector.

The plaintiff presidential electors were represented by Harvard Law professor and Equal Citizens founder Lawrence Lessig, his colleague at Equal Citizens Jason Harrow and Denver attorney Jason Wesoky.

After the decision, Lessig explained the importance of the case.

“This is an incredibly thoughtful decision that could advance substantially our campaign to reform the Electoral College,” he said.

“We know Electoral College contests are going to be closer in the future than they have been in the past; and as they get closer and closer, even a small number of electors could change the results of an election.

“Whether you think that’s a good system or not, we believe it is critical to resolve it before it would decide an election.”

Attorneys at Equal Citizens plan to ask the Supreme Court to hear the case and resolve the conflict between the Washington case and this Colorado decision.

If the Supreme Court accepts the case, it would issue a decision by the summer of 2020, well before the presidential election.