State levies $1,000 fines on 4 ‘faithless’ electors

OLYMPIA — Secretary of State Kim Wyman on Thursday levied $1,000 fines on the four Democratic electors who broke a state law by voting for someone other than their party’s presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Violation notices were mailed to Peter Bret Chiafalo, who lives near Everett; Esther John, of Seattle; Levi Guerra, of Warden; and Robert Satiacum, of University Place.

Each will have 60 days to pay the fine or 21 days to file a notice of appeal, according to Brian Zylstra, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office.

State law requires presidential electors to sign a pledge to vote for their party’s nominees for president and vice president, if they win the popular vote in Washington. A law passed in 1977 said failure to keep the pledge can result in a $1,000 fine.

All 12 Democratic electors in Washington did sign and turn in a pledge to the Secretary of State’s Office months ago, Zylstra said.

When the Electoral College met Dec. 19, eight of the 12 electors cast their ballots for Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine. The other four did not.

Chiafalo, Guerra and John cast their ballots for Colin Powell, a Republican and former U.S. secretary of state, whom they considered a better alternative to Republican President-elect Donald Trump. Satiacum, of the Puyallup Tribe, cast his vote for Faith Spotted Eagle, a Native American leader in South Dakota.

Chiafalo said last week he doesn’t intend to pay the fine and will go to court to challenge the constitutionality of the law he’s accused of violating.

He is a co-founder of a group called Hamilton Electors, which campaigned to prevent Trump from winning the Electoral College. They tried unsuccessfully to convince Republican electors in other states to break their pledges and back another GOP candidate, such as Powell.

In Washington, the last time an elector went rogue was in 1976, when Republican Mike Padden of Spokane Valley voted for Ronald Reagan instead of Gerald Ford. The next year lawmakers passed the law establishing a civil penalty for so-called “faithless electors.”

This is the first time that law will be imposed.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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