Nebraska lawmakers are taking on Trump by temporarily blocking the Electoral College vote change

By | April 4, 2024

Nebraska lawmakers on Wednesday night blocked a late attempt to change the way the state apportions its Electoral College votes, despite public pressure from former President Donald Trump to move to a winner-take-all system he in autumn would probably benefit from it.

The measure fell short 8-36 in a procedural vote. While it is possible that supporters could make another attempt to advance the proposal, serious hurdles remain as the legislative session draws to a close, and it is unclear whether the proposal has enough support to cross the finish line and to become law.

Nebraska currently hands out three of its five electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins each of the three congressional districts. In practice, that puts the Omaha region’s competitive 2nd District in play, even though Republicans typically win the statewide vote easily.

Wednesday night’s failed attempt to change the law to award all Electoral College votes to the state’s winner leaves the proposal’s fate in doubt with just days left in the legislative session.

State Senator Loren Lippincott, who introduced the original winner-takes-all bill, told the Nebraska Examiner that he would make one last attempt to put the measure up for a vote before the legislative session ends on April 18. However, it is unclear whether there is enough support for the change to go ahead.

Lippincott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Republican Senator Julie Slama had offered the text of the election bill as an amendment to existing law, the fastest way to vote on the proposal.

But the amendment was rejected after three dozen lawmakers voted that it was not relevant enough to the underlying legislation to be considered an amendment, failing the state law that requires an amendment to be “germane.” Slama was one of eight who voted that the amendment was relevant.

Lawmakers have repeatedly tried to change the state’s Electoral College allocation, but narrowly failed in 2016. Lippincott introduced the latest legislative proposal last year; It received little attention until this week when GOP personality Charlie Kirk raised the issue on his podcast.

On Tuesday, Trump and Republican Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen called on state lawmakers to take steps that would implement a winner-take-all system. Less than 24 hours later, the legislation, which once seemed all but forgotten, was resurrected

The renewed effort also attracted the attention of President Joe Biden‘s campaign. Brent Comstock, a consultant who works with several elected Democrats in Nebraska and across the country, confirmed that the Biden campaign has contacted Democrats in the state about the vote.

“Nebraska Democrats care about the importance of the president’s agenda and want him to succeed [congressional district] 2 and across the state,” Comstock told NBC News. “They work together to make sure that happens: more jobs, access to health care [and] clean energy.”

Shortly before Wednesday night’s vote, Slama said on the floor that she could “read the writing on the wall.” She then excoriated her fellow Republicans for not supporting the measure, arguing that their vote against the amendment’s “Germanness” was a rejection of the winner-takes-all system itself. Slama also accused them of not prioritizing the legislation when it was introduced over a year ago and of paying lip service to the proposal.

“If you’re going to tweet about an issue, if you’re going to issue press releases about an issue and try to pressure the legislature to do something, maybe if the concept actually comes up and people vote on it, maybe you all have to do the work do,” she said.

Shortly after the vote, Slama a Nebraska journalist responded on social media She said she did not believe the issue would be voted on again during this legislative session. It’s possible Republicans like Lippincott could make another attempt, but with just a few legislative days left in the unicameral body’s session, Republicans have warned there may not be enough time or support to overcome procedural hurdles.

If there is no new chance for a vote, it is also possible that Pillen, who has been a vocal supporter of moving to a winner-takes-all system, could call a special legislative session to address the issue . Still, Republican lawmakers have openly questioned whether the plan has enough support to overcome opposition from Democrats and independents.

Republicans have been trying to switch to a winner-takes-all system in Nebraska for some time now. Supporters, such as Slama, argue that the current allocation reduces the state’s political power.

“Nebraska is diluting their influence when other states have not followed Nebraska’s example when it comes to apportioning presidential votes,” she said on the floor Wednesday evening.

But the bill’s opponents had harsh words for the legislation and its proponents.

Some denounced the effort to revive the bill, accused Republicans of taking orders from Trump and conservative activists, and hurled insults at Trump and Kirk. Others said Republicans played politics at the last minute, toward the end of the legislative session.

“What happens at some point when the votes of the Democrats outweigh the votes of the Republicans? Will everyone want to change it back?” asked Democratic state Sen. Jen Day, defending the existing setup.

“By allocating electoral votes, Nebraska forces candidates to engage with voters across the state, listen to their concerns and develop policies that resonate with a broader spectrum of the population. Doesn’t that sound great?”

Nebraska is one of only two states that does not award all of the Electoral College votes to the statewide winner, a method it adopted before the 1992 presidential election. Since then, the state’s Omaha district has awarded its vote to a candidate other than the statewide winner only twice: to Barack Obama in 2008 and to Joe Biden in 2020.

Although the debate is functionally about just one of the Electoral College’s 538 votes, excluding Biden from the battle for the Second District vote could be crucial in a tight presidential race.

One possible outcome could be that both presidential candidates receive 269 Electoral College votes – one vote short of the 2,070 needed to win. In that situation, the race would be sent to the U.S. House of Representatives, where each state would get one vote.

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