Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Discusses Frodo Baggins During Electoral College Oral Argument

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke about the Lord of the Rings character Frodo Baggins during oral arguments concerning the Electoral College on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about whether so-called "faithless electors" should be allowed to vote for someone other than the winner of a state's popular vote. Thomas mentioned J.R.R. Tolkien's hobbit during arguments for Colorado Department of State vs. Baca, one of two cases the court heard concerning the issue on Wednesday.

"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,'" said Thomas. "And you're saying, under your system, you can't do anything about that."

Attorney Jason Harrow, defending a man who refused to vote for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after she won Colorado in 2016, responded by insisting that an elector could not vote for the hobbit character because they are not legally allowed to cast votes for a "non-person."

"Your honor, I think there is something to be done, because that would be the vote for a non-person, no matter how big a fan many people are of Frodo Baggins," Harrow said. "That said, I do think the important point is that the framers hashed out these competing concerns, they hashed it out in Philadelphia in 1787."

"They understood the stakes and they said, 'among these competing hypotheticals, electors are best placed to make the ultimate selection,'" Harrow added. "That hasn't changed, Justice Thomas."

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas poses for an official group photo in Washington, D.C. on November 30, 2018. MANDEL NGAN / AFP/Getty

The hobbit was mentioned again during closing arguments by the opposing counsel, represented by Colorado Attorney General Philip Weiser. The character was used to illustrate one of the reasons Weiser believes the justices should decide against allowing electors to vote for anyone other than the popular vote winner.

"My friends on the other side have failed to offer any viable theory on how to address the spectacle of a bribed elector, an elector who votes for Frodo Baggins, or one who would perpetrate a bait and switch on the people of our state," said Weiser.

The Supreme Court also heard arguments in a similar case involving faithless electors in Washington State, who were each fined $1,000 after failing to vote for Clinton. Although faithless electors are rare and have never altered the results of an election, the cases could have a long-lasting impact on future presidential elections. A decision is likely to be made during the summer.

The current session of the court has been hearing arguments via remote teleconferencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thomas surprised some by asking several questions during the session, despite his reputation for speaking little during arguments, sometimes going for years without asking any questions.

Newsweek reached out to the defense team in the Colorado case for comment. This article will be updated with any response.