Law Professor Lawrence Lessig is raising money for a proposed lawsuit against the electoral college system for electing the president. He writes “In a democracy, all votes should count equally. In our democracy, when voting for the president, they do not.” Here is an article he wrote for Daily Beast. His goal is to raise $250,000.
Federal and state courts have faced somewhat similar lawsuits in the past, and they have always lost, even in the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1966, the state of Delaware filed a request directly with the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the system, but the Court refused to hear it. Delaware v New York, 385 U.S. 895.
In 1967, some Mississippi voters sued to overturn Mississippi’s practice of choosing all presidential electors at-large, but they lost in a 3-judge U.S. District Court. Penton v Humphrey, 264 F.Supp.250.
In 1968, some Virginia voters challenged Virginia’s law that provides all the state’s electors should be elected at-large. Williams v Virginia State Board of Elections, 288 F.Supp.622 (1968). The three-judge court upheld the system. The U.S. Supreme Court then summarily affirmed that decision, 393 U.S. 320 (1969).
In 1978, some Alabama voters filed a similar challenge, but they lost in U.S. District Court and the Fifth Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Hitson v Baggett, 446 F.Supp. 674; 580 F.2d 1051; 439 U.S. 1129.
In 1980, some Louisiana voters filed a similar challenge in state court, but lost. Lowe v Treen, La.App., 393 So. 2d 459 (1980).
The problem faced by such lawsuits is Article II, section one, which says, “Each state shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.” That provision is very specific, and thus it overrides the general language in the Fourteenth Amendment for equal protection.