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Group sues four states to challenge winner-take-all system for Electoral College selection

A group has filed lawsuits against four U.S. states, aimed at getting rid of the Electoral College's winner-take-all system. (Sarah Rice/Getty Images)

A group is suing four U.S. states, claiming that the winner-take-all system for Electoral College selection disenfranchises voters and encourages presidential hopefuls to skip a large part of the country while campaigning.

What are the details?

Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig and one-time Al Gore attorney David Boies have teamed up to form the group Equal Votes and to sue the states of California, Texas, Massachusetts and South Carolina.

The plaintiffs contend that the winner-take-all system for divvying up electoral votes cheats voters and violates the "one person, one vote" principle that the Supreme Court has enshrined under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Currently, 48 states use the winner-take-all method to distribute electoral votes.

In Nebraska and Maine, conversely, electors are selected based on the winners in each congressional district.

The lawsuits seek to require states to replace the winner-take-all system with a process in which electoral votes are distributed according to a candidates' percentage of votes.

Boies argued to Judge Patti B. Saris in Boston on Thursday, "You shouldn't have voters going to the polls knowing their votes don't count. That's why political candidates don't come here to campaign the way they go to Ohio or Florida or other so-called battleground states."

Professor Lessig is the litigation strategist for the group. The Equal Votes organization launched a crowdfunding campaign in September and raised $250,000 to fund the four lawsuits. Equal Votes' website says the suits were filed "on behalf of a diverse group of Democrats and Republicans whose votes for president don't matter in the general election under the winner-take-all system."

Weld — who was also the 2016 vice presidential nominee for the Libertarian party — issued a statement that the winner-take-all system "discards millions of votes for president every four years," and "is at the heart of the unhealthy duopoly that plagues our national politics."

Anything else?

According to The Boston Globe, Saris told the plaintiffs they have a "steep hill" to climb, saying she would be hesitant to order the Massachusetts Legislature to change the Electoral College system in the state unless there was a "plain violation" of voters' rights.

The plaintiffs expect an appeal no matter what the outcome, and hope the Supreme Court will hear their case prior to the 2020 election.

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