Trump and his allies are pressuring Nebraska to change the way it awards electoral votes

By | April 4, 2024

Former President Donald Trump and his allies have increased pressure on Nebraska lawmakers to change the method by which the state apportions its Electoral College votes, an effort that underscores how narrow the race for 270 electoral votes could be in the November rematch . President Joe Biden.

The proposed change would move the state to a winner-take-all system, while the current system splits electoral votes between statewide winners and congressional district winners. The proposal appeared to have little traction until a last-minute push from prominent Republicans drew national attention to the change.

Conservative activist Charlie Kirk launched the effort Tuesday by sending out a social media message urging Nebraska Republicans to take action. Hours later, the Republican Administration announced. Jim Pills expressed support for the change after failing to make it a priority during his first fifteen months in office.

Trump weighed in on Truth Social, saying he too supported the change.

“Governor Jim Pillen of Nebraska, a very smart and popular governor, who has done some great things, came out today with a very strong letter in support of returning Nebraska’s electoral votes to a Winner-Take-All system ,” said the former president. wrote. “Most Nebraskans have long wanted to return to this system because it is what 48 other states are doing – it is what the Founders intended, and it is good for Nebraska. Thank you Governor for your courageous leadership. Let’s hope the Senate does the right thing. Nebraskans, respectfully ask your Senators to support this great bill!

Nebraska’s law, which distributes the state’s electoral votes by congressional district, has not been a topic of serious discussion during this year’s legislative session and was not a Pillen priority until Trump’s allies began a pressure campaign on Tuesday.

The sudden move, which caught Nebraska Republicans off guard, comes just two weeks before the state’s legislative session ends April 18.

The chairman of the Legislature, Sen. John Arch, a Republican, appeared to close the door on taking action on the issue this year.

“In the Nebraska Unicameral, we have a process,” Arch said in a statement Wednesday. “It includes the introduction of the bill, a committee hearing on each bill, and the prioritization of the session’s agenda by the committees and individual members of the Legislature. LB 764 was not prioritized and remains in committee. I cannot schedule a bill that is still in committee.”

It remains an open question whether pressure — from the governor or the public — can change his opinion.

Lawmakers opened a spirited debate Wednesday night at the state Capitol in Lincoln over whether to formally consider the winner-take-all measure by linking it to another piece of legislation, a procedural move that would open the door to a likely filibuster from critics.

“If you realize you can’t win with the current rules, do you go back to the drawing board and change the rules so you can win?” said Sen. Jen Day, a Democrat from Omaha.

Although the Legislature is technically nonpartisan, the political lines became clear Wednesday night as the debate continued. Several lawmakers who opposed the proposal said nothing would stop Trump from winning the Omaha district and said he has the same chance to present his case to voters as Biden.

“Come take Omaha’s electoral vote,” said Senator Megan Hunt, an independent from Omaha. “Come earn it.”

Nebraska lawmakers on Wednesday night rejected an attempt to tie the winner-take-all election measure to a broader government spending and policy bill.

Supporters said they would try again Thursday to tie the Trump-backed proposal to another unrelated measure.

Nebraska and Maine are the only two states in the country that divide their electoral votes by congressional district — an unusual system that allowed Biden to gain one vote from Nebraska, a red state, and Trump to take one from Maine, a blue state, in 2020. .

Despite all the last-minute fuss, it’s notoriously difficult to push through legislation on the 11the hour in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature, the nation’s only unihouse government body. A Democratic lawmaker told CNN that a filibuster would result if Republicans pushed through the Electoral College bill.

“Nebraskas want to preserve our fair electoral system, which is why previous efforts by some Republicans over the past three decades have failed to undo our divided electoral votes,” Nebraska Democratic Chairman Jane Kleeb said Wednesday. “We are proud of our unique electoral system and know all too well the economic benefits it generates with a national focus on our state.”

There are only two days left to introduce new bills. The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Loren Lippincott, had previously suggested the necessary votes were not there to pass his proposal.

“Essentially, it’s probably stuck in committee for now,” Lippincolt told the Lincoln Journal Star on Tuesday. “I don’t like to report that, but they are the facts.”

Republicans have previously tried unsuccessfully to repeal this law. A current proposal has been stuck in committee since 2023, without enough votes for a full vote, and was barely discussed this year until Trump’s allies began pushing for the change this week.

For weeks, the Biden campaign has been eyeing Omaha and its lone electoral vote.

For all the talk about Biden’s blue wall of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, winning all three could still leave him short of 270 electoral votes. The 2020 census changed the map based on declining populations in Pennsylvania and Michigan, so that one of Nebraska’s three electoral votes could become crucial if there was a 269-269 tie with Trump.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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