Former Republican Massachusetts Governor and Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate Bill Weld filed a suit Wednesday in Boston federal court challenging the constitutionality of Massachusetts’ winner-take-all election system. He says the system disenfranchises third and minority party voters.
Under winner-take-all rules, which exist in 48 U.S. states, the presidential candidate that obtains the most votes in a state then receives all of the state’s electoral votes. In Maine and Alaska, electoral votes are attributed to the winners of each congressional district, allowing supporters of candidates who lost the state to get a degree of proportional representation in the Electoral College.
“The winner-take-all system under the Electoral College is at the heart of the unhealthy duopoly that plagues our national politics. It causes candidates and campaigns to ignore all but the ‘battleground’ states. It discards millions of votes for president every four years. Getting rid of the winner-take-all system will help Americans enjoy a broader range of choices for president than the narrow ‘either/or’ choice with which they’ve suffered for too long,” said Weld according to The Dallas Observer.
Weld’s Massachusetts lawsuit claims, “The predominant method in America for counting votes in presidential elections violates the United States Constitution; it also distorts presidential campaigns, facilitates targeted outside interference in our elections, and ensures that a substantial number of citizen voters are disenfranchised when their votes are tallied in early November, only to be discarded when it really counts in mid-December.”
According to The Republican, Weld’s suit comes as a part of a nationwide movement to end winner-take-all, with suits also filed in California, Texas, and South Carolina. The California version of the lawsuit includes Republican actor Paul Rodriguez as a plaintiff. The Texas suit names the League of United Latin American Citizens as a plaintiff, who argue that Texas electoral votes have not gone to a candidate supported widely by Latino and African American voters, who make up around 40 percent of the state’s population, since 1976.
The Boston Herald notes that in Massachusetts 9.6 million citizens have cast votes for non-Democratic candidates in the past 8 presidential elections, but all of the state’s electoral votes have gone to Democrats.
The plaintiffs of the lawsuits in four states have indicated that they do not intend to overturn the entire Electoral College system, just individual states’ winner-take-all methods of allocating electoral votes.
Weld’s suit claims that winner-take-all causes general election presidential candidates to avoid campaign stops in highly-partisan states such as Massachusetts. “As a result [of winner-take-all], candidates from major political parties rarely hold campaign events in Massachusetts once they are selected by their parties in the primary,” it reads. “This results in a reduced opportunity for all Massachusetts voters to interface with and petition the candidates for major political parties in person, and ‘to express their ideas, hopes, and concerns to their government and their elected representatives’ as is also protected by the Petition Clause of the First Amendment.”