Statement from Gov. Henry McMaster on U.S. Court of Appeals Electoral College Ruling

July 23, 2020

Governor Henry McMaster released the following statement regarding this week’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirming the constitutionality of South Carolina’s method of appointing presidential electors to the Electoral College:

“The Fourth Circuit correctly affirmed that the approach used by South Carolina and 47 other states to appoint presidential electors does not violate the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act.  I applaud the Court for rejecting this challenge to a long-standing feature of our electoral process and for recognizing that the Founders intended for these decisions to be made by state legislatures and not by federal courts.”

Under South Carolina law, the State appoints all nine presidential electors based on the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in a statewide election.  This “winner-take-all” approach dates back to the first presidential election and is currently used by forty-eight states and the District of Columbia.  The plaintiffs, whose attorneys filed similar lawsuits in Texas, California, and Massachusetts, argued that the “winner-take-all” method of appointing presidential electors violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  The Governor consistently maintained that South Carolina’s method of appointing presidential electors is consistent with the U.S. Constitution’s command that “[e]ach 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.”

The Fourth Circuit correctly noted that the plaintiffs’ position was at odds with “the fundamental democratic principle that the one who receives the most votes wins, and the others lose” but that “[a]ll votes cast in presidential elections in South Carolina are treated the same, and the candidate with the most support across the State gets the State’s allocation of electoral votes in the Electoral College.”

The Fourth Circuit’s ruling affirmed the previous decision by U.S. District Judge David C. Norton dismissing the plaintiffs’ Complaint.  On behalf of the Governor, his chief legal counsel, Thomas Limehouse, defended South Carolina’s electoral process before the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina and on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.