The Electors Clause and the Governor's Veto

106 Cornell Law Review Online, 2020 Forthcoming

13 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2020

Date Written: September 23, 2020


This Essay examines whether the United States Constitution allows a governor to veto a state legislature’s bill governing presidential elections. The Constitution does not support this seemingly intuitive proposition directly, and on its face appears to vest control over presidential elections solely in the hands of state legislatures: while Article II of the Constitution explicitly provides for the “Legislature” of each state to control the “manner” in which electors are chosen, it makes no mention of state governors. This vagary in the Constitution’s text takes on particular import in light of political polarization over election administration in recent years. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted numerous states to make emergency modifications to their election systems, including delaying elections or attempting to cancel marginally competitive presidential primaries. Commentators have even expressed fear that a state legislature may eventually attempt to exercise its plenary authority to determine how presidential electors are appointed under Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution to choose electors without holding a popular vote. This Essay answers these concerns by arguing that a state governor can veto state legislatures’ bills governing presidential elections on the same terms as any other legislation. Although the Constitution may not explicitly provide for a state governor’s role, the Supreme Court’s precedents and longstanding practice strongly suggest that a state governor has the same powers over bills governing presidential elections as over other state legislation. This conclusion has further implications for other potential conflicts between state legislatures and governors over presidential elections, including rules for absentee balloting, awarding electors by congressional district, using ranked-choice voting, or entering the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

Keywords: Law, election law, constitutional law, federalism

Suggested Citation

Rubin, Nathaniel, The Electors Clause and the Governor's Veto (September 23, 2020). 106 Cornell Law Review Online, 2020 Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

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