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Law School Case Brief

Baca v. Colo. Dep't of State - 935 F.3d 887 (10th Cir. 2019)

Rule:

The Tenth Amendment could not reserve to the states the power to remove electors or cancel their votes.

Facts:

Micheal Baca, Polly Baca, and Robert Nemanich (collectively, the Presidential Electors) were appointed as three of Colorado's nine presidential electors for the 2016 general election. Colorado law required the state's presidential electors to cast their votes for the winner of the popular vote in the state for President and Vice President. Although Colorado law required the Presidential Electors to cast their votes for Hillary Clinton, because she had won the popular vote, Michael casted his vote for John Kasich. In response, Colorado's Secretary of State (SOS) removed Michael as an elector and discarded his vote. The SOS then replaced Michael with an elector who cast her vote for Hillary Clinton. After witnessing Michael's removal from office, Polly and Robert voted for Hillary Clinton despite their desire to vote for John Kasich. After the vote, the Presidential Electors sued the Colorado Department of State (the Department), alleging a violation of 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983. The Department moved to dismiss the complaint. The district court granted the motion, concluding the Presidential Electors lacked standing, and, in the alternative, the Presidential Electors had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The Presidential Electors appealed.

Issue:

  1. Did the Presidential Electors have standing to challenge their injuries, i.e., removal from office and cancellation of vote for Mr. Baca, and general diminution of their powers as electors for the other two Presidential Electors?
  2. Was the removal of Michael Baca from office, and the subsequent nullification of his vote constitutional?

Answer:

1) Yes for Michael Baca; No for the other two Presidential Electors. 2) No.

Conclusion:

The Court held that Michael Baca had standing because he asserted an injury in fact based on cancellation of his vote for president and refusal to allow him to vote for president; however, no such personal injury was asserted by the other two Presidential Electors. As to the second issue, the Court held that the Colorado's SOS impermissibly interfered with Michael Baca’s rights because U.S. Const. art. II, § 1, cl. 2 and the Twelfth Amendment did not delegate to states the power to remove electors and nullify their votes. According to the Court, states may not interfere with a presidential elector who exercised discretion in casting votes for the President and Vice President of the United States.

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