Winner-Take-All Presidential Elector System Deemed Constitutional

February 27, 2020 by Dan McCue
Winner-Take-All Presidential Elector System Deemed Constitutional
In this July 9, 2019 photo, people wait in line to enter the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

A federal appeals court has declared the winner-take-all system 48 of 50 states use to assign their electoral college votes is constitutional.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the Texas system.

Two similar lawsuits challenging the practice in additional states are pending in other appeals courts.

Domingo Garcia, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a lead plaintiff in the case, said he expects the issue to wind up at the Supreme Court.

In upholding the current system, the panel cited appellate and Supreme Court decisions going back to the 1960s that have also allowed the policy to stand.

Critics of the system maintain that electors should be allocated proportionally, based on a percentage of the popular vote for each presidential candidate.

The three-judge panel rejected that argument, noting that each citizen in each state is afforded the opportunity to vote and that the winner-take-all system does not deprive anyone of that right.

The panel also rejected other arguments, including the assertion that the winner-take-all system causes national candidates to ignore Texas voters while focusing on swing states, and that it diminishes the incentive of voters whose party or candidate is lagging in state polls to cast a ballot in a presidential race.

In a written statement, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said, “only an amendment to the Constitution can change or eliminate the stable and successful presidential election system designed by our Founders.

“The Electoral College has been in constant use since 1789, and the Constitution clearly allows states to appoint electors as directed by the Legislature,” Paxton continued. “Texas and the 47 other states that selected the winner-take-all method are operating in full compliance with the Constitution. This challenge to the Electoral College system is not just baseless, it threatens to destroy the framework of our election process.”

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  • 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Electoral College
  • Texas
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