Nebraska Lawmakers Reject Trump-Backed Move to Change Electoral Vote System

Brian Snyder/Reuters
Brian Snyder/Reuters

Nebraska lawmakers on Wednesday night voted against a move toward changing the way the state awards Electoral College votes, a proposal backed by Donald Trump that would likely help him in his bid for a second presidential term.

Legislators voted 8-36 on a motion that, had it succeeded, would have cleared the way for another vote on returning the state to the winner-take-all model used by 48 other states, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. Both Trump and Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen publicly called for the overhaul, though it’s not clear if its supporters will attempt to try again or have a realistic chance of success before the end of the state’s legislative session on April 18.

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While most states award all of their Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote, Nebraska has a different way of allocating its five electoral votes. Two of its votes are given to the statewide winner, while the other three are allocated to whoever wins in each of the state’s three congressional districts.

That quirk means that Democrats can lose the popular vote in the red state but still walk away with one electoral vote—by winning in the Omaha-based Second District—as President Joe Biden did in 2020, and Barack Obama before him in 2008.

Republican state Sen. Julie Slama attempted to add the proposal to change Nebraska back to a winner-take-all state as an amendment to an unrelated bill. Although the vote that sank her attempt was not directly about the electoral overhaul, Slama portrayed it as “the last chance to pass winner-take-all this session.”

“We’re gonna find out where you stand,” she said in the minutes before the vote, according to the Journal Star. “You cannot hide behind this being just a procedural vote. You will be called out for what it is. That state is watching. The country is watching.”

Republican state Sen. Loren Lippincott, who introduced the winner-take-all legislation as a standalone bill last year, said after the vote that: “Most likely, this year, it doesn’t look promising.” “Next year, we’re gonna give it the varsity try,” Lippincott added.

Earlier this week, right-wing activist Charlie Kirk sketched out a potential scenario in which Trump loses the 2024 presidential election “by exactly ONE electoral vote” because of Nebraska’s existing rules. He urged Republicans to contact Gov. Pillen “and let him know you want this fixed.”

Within hours of Kirk’s clarion call, Pillen put out his own statement saying he’d been a strong supporter of Lippincott’s bill “from the start” and called on Republicans in the state legislature to pass the bill “to my desk so I can sign it into law.” Trump then shared Pillen’s statement on his Truth Social platform, calling the governor “very smart and popular.”

“Most Nebraskans have wanted to go back to this system for a very long time, because it’s what 48 other States do - It’s what the Founders intended, and it’s right for Nebraska,” Trump wrote. “Thank you Governor for your bold leadership. Let’s hope the Senate does the right thing. Nebraskans, respectfully ask your Senators to support this Great Bill!”

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