Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is known for saying very little — but he made some unexpected remarks this week that left some observers chuckling.
The comments came amid arguments on whether state electors — i.e., those participating in the Electoral College — are bound to support the candidate who people in their state voted for.
Electors who disregard the voters’ wishes are known as “faithless electors,” and Jason Harrow is serving as an attorney for one such individual from Colorado, the Examiner noted. Thomas, for his part, had questions for Harro — and they involved Frodo Baggins.
“I really like Frodo Baggins”
“The elector who had promised to vote for the winning candidate could suddenly say, ‘You know, I’m going to vote for Frodo Baggins. I really like Frodo Baggins,'” the Examiner quoted Thomas as saying. “And you’re saying, under your system, you can’t do anything about that?” the Supreme Court justice inquired of the attorney.
“Your honor, I think there is something to be done because that would be a vote for a nonperson, no matter how big a fan many people are of Frodo Baggins,” Harrow said in response, according to the Examiner.
“I do think the important point is that the Framers hashed out these competing concerns,” the lawyer went on. “They understood the stakes, and they said, among these competing hypotheticals, ‘electors are best placed to make the ultimate selection.’ That hasn’t changed.”
Also at issue is a law in Washington state that compels electors to cast their ballot for the candidate who wins the national popular vote, regardless of how voters in Washington feel. A number of states have similarly either passed or are considering legislation that would award their electoral college votes to whichever presidential candidate won the greatest number of votes nationwide, according to reports.
Weighing in on the issue, Justice Brett Kavanaugh speculated Wednesday that a popular vote trend could “facilitate or create chaos,” NBC News reported, adding that he’s “just being realistic.”
Still, liberal-leaning Justice Elena Kagan suggested that since the issue isn’t explicitly outlined in the Constitution, perhaps it should be left to the states to decide for themselves. “If there’s silence, maybe the best thing to do is leave it to the states,” she said, according to NBC.
The nation’s highest court announced last month that it would begin hearing cases via teleconference, the first time in history that it has done so, according to The New York Times. The change came about over fears of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus disease that has already infected some 1.4 million Americans and left more than 85,000 dead, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.
Thanks to the new SCOTUS policy, members of the public are permitted to listen live to the proceedings, though there is no video. Still, if Thomas keeps making quips like these, they might be worth tuning into.