I'm wondering if there is solid legal ground for suing the US government for using an electoral college which can have the effect of denying citizens a vote. My argument is that the electoral college violates a citizen's right to a vote because it 1.) effectively changes your vote to match that of the majority in your state (or congressional district if you're in Maine or Nebraska) and because 2.) it gives some citizens a stronger vote than others due to what state they live in.

The electoral college altering your vote to match the majority seems to be the most egregious crime because, although the constitution doesn't explicitly require your vote to be equal in strength, surely the founders intended with the word 'vote' that you at least get to choose who you vote for.

I understand the constitution does not explicitly guarantee that all votes must be equal, nor does it ban geographic voter discrimination and that it does call for an electoral college so I see the counter argument would be strong, but I wonder if you guys think there is any case to be made for my argument.

  • 5
    The electoral college is part of the constitution. As such there is no legal basis to contest it. It is legal, even though it may be unfair. (Whether it is fair or not is itself up for debate). To summarize: You can think the law is bad or immoral, but its still the law. Whether we should or should not change the law is a political question rather than a legal one Sep 17, 2017 at 14:18
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    If you want to sue, sue the state, because the states set the laws for selection of electors. Trying to sue the US govt. because the Constitution is unconstitutional is not gonna get anywhere.
    – user6726
    Sep 17, 2017 at 14:43
  • The Constitution of the United States says that state legislatures are to decide how presidential electors are chosen. Sep 18, 2017 at 16:00

1 Answer 1


Although the constitution doesn't explicitly require your vote to be equal in strength, surely the founders intended with the word 'vote' that you at least get to choose who you vote for.

Quite the contrary. The founders specifically intended that smaller states should have disproportionate strength - they knew exactly what they were doing. This was one of the major design goals of the Constitution and is reflected in several other areas (e.g. the structure of the Senate); the smaller states wouldn't have agreed to join the Union if such concessions hadn't been made.

There's a general principle in law that "the specific overrides the general". You're not going to get anywhere by trying to read into the word "vote" when there is explicit text saying something different. If the founders intended the word "vote" to imply "equal power for everyone", then why would they have specified, in great detail, a system which does exactly the opposite?

For that matter, the founders didn't particularly intend that the people be able to vote for president at all! Article II, Section 1 says only that "each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors..." There is no requirement that the state should hold an election to determine the appointment of the electors. According to Wikipedia, five states initially had the electors chosen by the state legislature, without having the people vote at all, and South Carolina continued to use this system until 1860. The 14th Amendment, section 2, appears to require that all eligible voters (male and 21 at the time, since modified by the 19th and 26th Amendments) be allowed to vote for their electors, but even there the wording is "any election" which appears to leave open the possibility of having no election at all. (It hasn't been tested as far as I know.)

I think that your proposed lawsuit would be quickly dismissed, possibly as "frivolous".

  • To add support to this, there is a similar situation in Canada. Each riding doesn't have the same amount of people, and the prime minister is elected by getting the highest number of ridings. Same with the senate - maritime provinces technically have much more representation than the western provinces.
    – Zizouz212
    Sep 17, 2017 at 18:08
  • @Zizouz212 : I don't know how the Canadian senate works, but the U.S. senate has two senators from each state regardless of population, and this provision was written by the same people who wrote that the number of members of the house of representatives from each state would depend on the number of people counted in the census. And moreover, they wrote a provision that no Constitutional amendment can deprive a state of equal suffrage in the senate without its consent. Sep 18, 2017 at 16:02
  • Oh wow. So a state like Wyoming has waay more influence than New York. In Canada, it's kind of similar - each province has a defined number of senators, but it's much more in the East than the West - iirc Nova Scotia has 10 senators, but BC only has 6.
    – Zizouz212
    Sep 19, 2017 at 14:58
  • @Zizouz212 No. Wyoming has way less influence than New York. New York has 2 senators and 27 representatives while Wyoming has 2 senators and only 1 representative.
    – Matt
    Oct 6, 2017 at 4:20
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    @Matt: I think "influence" here is meant per capita: any given Wyoming voter has more influence than a New York voter. Oct 6, 2017 at 4:40

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