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Bill to change how Nebraska awards Electoral College votes fails

Nebraska is one of two states in the U.S. that is not winner-take-all in presidential elections. Former President Donald Trump hopes to change that.
Then-President Donald Trump campaigning in 2020 in Omaha.
Posted at 10:22 AM, Apr 04, 2024

Nebraska will remain one of two states that does not give all of its Electoral College votes automatically to whoever wins the state in presidential elections. 

Like Maine, Nebraska only gives two of its electors to whoever has the most statewide votes in presidential elections. The rest of the Electoral College electors are divided based on who has the most votes within the state's congressional districts. 

On Wednesday, lawmakers sent a bill that would have made Nebraska a winner-take-all state back to committee, putting the issue to rest for now. The bill was attached to an unrelated billand lost a procedural vote as most senators deemed the amendment "not germane." 

The winner-take-all bill has the support of the state's GOP Gov. Jim Pillen and former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee in this year's presidential election. 

Republican State Sen. Loren Lippincott sponsored the bill.

"I am a strong supporter of Sen. Lippincott's winner-take-all bill (LB 764) and have been from the start," Pillen said. "It would bring Nebraska into line with 48 of our fellow states, better reflect the founders' intent, and ensure our state speaks with one unified voice in presidential elections. I call upon fellow Republicans in the Legislature to pass this bill to my desk so I can sign it into law."

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The bill would likely benefit Republicans running for president, given Nebraska's electoral history. No Democrat since 1964 has won the statewide presidential vote. President Lyndon Johnson was the only Democrat to have won the statewide vote since 1940. 

But under the current rules, Democrats have picked up an Electoral College vote from time to time. In 2020, Joe Biden won Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District. Then-Sen. Barack Obama also won the Omaha-centric district in 2008. 

If Nebraska had a winner-take-all system in 2008 and 2020, all five electors in those elections would have gone to Republicans. But since Democrats managed to win a congressional district those years, Republicans only won four of the five electors. 

Lippincott noted that the current system encourages candidates to campaign in the Omaha area since that district is generally competitive, while the rest of the state gets little attention from candidates. 

"What we have now discourages candidates from addressing issues that appeal to the state as a whole by rewarding candidates who visit our congressional districts with higher population and income levels to the exclusion of rural Nebraska," he said. 

Lippincott noted that had every state had the same system of using congressional districts in place in 2012 when Obama defeated Mitt Romney 332-206 in the Electoral College, Romney would have won that year's election.