Court OKs Texas winner-take-all presidential elector system

NEW ORLEANS — The winner-take-all system Texas and 47 other states use to assign Electoral College presidential votes is constitutional, a federal appeals court said Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans unanimously upheld a lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the Texas system. It was the latest defeat for organizations challenging such systems in Texas and three other states.

The ruling cited appellate and Supreme Court decisions dating back to the 1960s that have upheld the winner-take-all system. It rejected challengers' assertions that electors should be allocated proportionately, based on a percentage of the popular vote for each presidential candidate.

Led by the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, organizations challenging the system said it violates the “one-person, one-vote” principal arising from constitutional equal protection and freedom of association rights.

But the three-judge 5th Circuit panel cited court precedents holding 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 in the minority to cast a ballot.

The opinion's author, Judge Jerry Smith, said there is “a critical distinction between a system that diminishes voters’ motivation to participate and one that burdens their ability to do so."

Smith said while the winner-take-all system "may indirectly decrease the incentive of members of perennially losing political parties to vote, it does not hinder their actual ability to vote.”

LULAC declined to comment immediately but was expected to issue a statement. The organization also has challenged winner-take-all systems in California, Massachusetts and South Carolina.

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