What Is An Unpledged Elector? They Could Shake Up This Year's Election

Each election cycle, it's best for voters to brush up on the entire voting process, because to be honest, it can seem like a complicated mess once you leave the booth. It's important to remember that voters aren't directly electing the president and vice president. Rather, they're electing "electors" to do that for them. Each party has a slate of electors lined up, and should one party receive the majority of votes over the other in a state, all of that state's electoral votes go to the majority candidate. But what about the unpledged electors? They're not bound to vote for any particular candidate, and though it's largely unprecedented, they could actually shake up this year's election.

Unpledged electors are nominated by their state's party in the same way pledged ones are, but they are free to vote for whomever they choose. The Electoral College has been left primarily untouched by unpledged electors, as well as faithless and blank voters. Regular, pledged electors have the majority of the say, as they correspond directly to the popular vote of each state. To turn the vote over to unpledged electors would fly in the face of the will of the people, so they are kept to a minimum.

But as unusual as this election has been, some pledged electors are trying to turn into unpledged ones, saying they are unable to vote for Donald Trump even if he takes their state by popular vote.

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Georgia Republican Baoky Vu is one such elector. In August, Vu publicly announced that he would not cast his electoral vote for Trump, no matter how his state voted in November. Had he been an unpledged elector, this would have been no problem. But a backlash against Vu ensued, and he chose to resign just a few days later.

According to The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Vu said of his decision:

I will not be voting for Donald Trump in the general election. My conscience is clear but my soul is being tested. Trump’s antics and asinine behavior has cemented my belief that he lacks the judgment, temperament and gravitas to lead this nation… Forget political incorrectness, this is simply despicable demagoguery.

Could other pledged electors jump ship come Election Day, and join their fellow unpledged electors in voting their conscience? While there aren't any legal barriers that prevent electors from doing just that, the chances are slim. Still, both unpledged and pledged electors have the opportunity to make a significant difference in this year's election should they decide to go rouge.