Nebraska To Abandon District Method For Electoral Vote Allocation?
Nebraska legislators are currently debating a bill that would end the state’s practice of awarding at least a portion of its Electoral Votes based on who wins each of the state’s three Congressional Districts:
Nebraska legislators are weighing a bill that would reinstate a “winner-take-all” system of awarding presidential electoral votes.
The state’s unicameral legislature is in its second day of debating a bill that would scrap Nebraska’s two-decade-old system of awarding one electoral vote per congressional district and two electoral votes to the statewide winner. Nebraska, which has three districts and five electoral votes, and Maine are the only two states that eschew the winner-take-all system and use this district-based system instead.
Nebraska has voted Republican in 12 consecutive presidential elections and that party’s presidential nominee has carried every congressional district in four of the five elections using the district system of allocating electoral votes. The only electoral vote “split” came in 2008, when Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama carried the Omaha-based 2nd District while losing the statewide vote.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Charlie Janssen, says the current system “diminishes the state’s already small electoral clout, encourages gerrymandering of congressional districts and hasn’t worked to drum up more interest in Nebraska by presidential candidates and campaigns,” the Omaha World-Herald reported yesterday.
“That claim hasn’t been realized in any great measure,” Janssen said.
Opponents contend the bill would make Nebraska less relevant in presidential elections and shrink citizen engagement in state politics.
“You can just say goodbye to your presidential visits,” Sen. Burke Harr said during debate yesterday.
Of course, with just five Electoral Votes and a population of less than two million people, Nebraska is unlikely to be considered a Presidential battleground regardless of whether we continue under the Electoral College or move to a system where Presidents are selected by nationwide popular vote.
Getting rid of Nebraska’s current system has been a long-running goal of the state’s Republican Party. The bill has the support of Republican Gov. Dave Heineman.
One Democrat in the Legislature, Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery, said Wednesday that if Nebraska’s system was adopted by other states, it would likely hurt his party’s presidential candidate. For instance, he said, Obama would have lost 11 electoral votes in California in 2008, instead of winning all 55 of its electoral votes, making his national margin of victory smaller.
Avery, though, said he still opposes LB 382.
Legislative debate is expected to move on to other bills on Thursday, and it appeared doubtful that Janssen has the 33 votes needed to end the filibuster.
As I recall, a bill similar to this was debated between the 2008 and 2012 elections and ultimately rejected. It appears that this effort will sufer a similar fate.