Lawsuit against Nevada electors rejected

A lawsuit aimed at stopping Nevada's presidential electors from casting their ballots Monday for Republican president-elect George W. Bush was rejected Friday by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge David Hagen of Reno ruled against attorney Carter King, who had argued Nevada's ''winner-take-all'' electoral system is unconstitutional.

The Reno lawyer said Nevada's four electoral votes should be split between Bush and Al Gore because the Democratic vice president won in the state's 1st Congressional District, based in Las Vegas, while Bush won in the 2nd Congressional District, encompassing the rest of the state.

But Hagen said Nevada law states that the electors are to vote only for the presidential candidate who got the most votes statewide - even if the results within the state's two congressional districts differed.

While he trailed in one of the districts, Bush got 49.5 percent of the statewide vote and Gore got 45.9 percent.

''In the November 2000 election, the ticket of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney prevailed and, therefore, the four Nevada electors must vote for them,'' Hagen said.

Hagen cited a 1969 federal court case, involving Virginia's electors, that said a similar ''unit rule'' in that state didn't violate the one-person, one-vote doctrine or constitutional equal protection guarantees.

King said he wanted to study the case law further before deciding on whether to appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. He added any decision wouldn't occur before Monday's voting by the Nevada electors.

His lawsuit also sought a ruling to block Nevada's electoral process in the 2004 presidential elections, even if this year's voting remained on schedule.

If an appeal isn't likely to succeed in the courts, King said he'd join in any efforts during the 2001 Legislature to amend the state law governing Nevada's presidential electors.

The lawsuit named Secretary of State Dean Heller as defendant. But Hagen said Heller, who will oversee the electoral voting in his office, doesn't actually vote and should be dismissed from the case.

The electors are Bill Raggio, a state senator from Reno; former Assemblywoman Jane Ham of Las Vegas, and longtime GOP activists Trudy Hushbeck of Carson City and Tom Wiesner of Las Vegas.

Heller has already said he will ask the 2001 Legislature to change state law and distribute electoral votes to candidates based on the popular vote.

Two states, Maine and Nebraska, currently apportion electoral votes based on popular vote totals.

Only a federal constitutional amendment can change or eliminate the Electoral College, but states decide how their votes are apportioned.


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