Former Gov. Bill Weld is among a group of plaintiffs suing Gov. Charlie Baker and Secretary of State Bill Galvin alleging the Bay State’s winner-take-all system of assigning electoral votes in presidential elections is unconstitutional.
Every four years, Massachusetts awards all of its electoral votes — 11 in 2016 — to the winner of the statewide vote, whether it’s a razor-thin victory or a landslide.
Weld and two other plaintiffs allege that the practice violates the U.S. Constitution, essentially silencing the voices of voters supporting minority parties.
“(It) 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,” reads the lawsuit, referring to the Electoral College, the constitutionally prescribed body that technically chooses the president after votes are counted.
The suit argues that a combined 9.6 million Massachusetts votes cast for Republican, Libertarian and other non-Democratic candidates over the last eight presidential elections were “effectively disenfranchised” when all 95 Massachusetts electors unanimously voted for the Democrat.
Weld ran for vice president in 2016 as the running mate of Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson. That ticket received 138,018 votes, or 4 percent of the statewide vote in Massachusetts.
Democrat Hillary Clinton carried Massachusetts with 2 million votes, or 60 percent of the vote, compared to Republican Donald Trump, who received 1.1 million votes or 33 percent.
Nationally, Trump won more electoral votes than Clinton, even though she captured the popular vote.
There are two states that don’t have winner-take-all systems, including Maine, which awards two of its four electoral votes to the statewide winner and allocates the other two to the winners of each of its congressional districts.
That formula came into play in 2016, with both Clinton and Trump making repeated campaign stops in Maine. Even though Clinton won the state by 3 percentage points, Trump picked up one of the state’s four electoral votes because he won the 2nd Congressional District by 10 percentage points.
The two other plaintiffs listed in the suit, which was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, are R.J. Lyman and Robert Capodilupo, both listed as registered Republicans who were “deprived” of the right to have their votes counted equally. Lyman is a former administration official under Weld and a senior adviser at Mintz Levin, where Weld is a principal.
A spokeswoman for Galvin declined to comment yesterday. Spokesmen for Baker didn’t return a request for comment. Both are named in their capacity as state office-holders.
The suit doesn’t propose an alternative system to the current winner-take-all, but asks the court to declare it unlawful. But if state officials aren’t able to come up with an alternative, the suit asks a judge to order a “proportional method of distributing Electors” based on the statewide vote, not by congressional district.
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