Presidential election by national popular vote considered

Popular votes, rather than electoral votes, would determine the outcome of the next presidential election under a bill heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee Jan. 23.

Under LB112, introduced by O’Neill Sen. Tyson Larson, Nebraska would enter into an interstate compact to elect the country’s president by national vote.

Currently, Nebraska uses the congressional district method. Nebraska has five electoral votes; one for each of the three congressional districts, plus two for the state’s Senate seats. The winner of each district is awarded one electoral vote, and the winner of the statewide vote is then awarded the state’s remaining two electoral votes. Nebraska and Maine are the only two states who use this system.

“[This bill] would ensure every Nebraska voter is relevant in presidential campaigns and rightsizing the influence of battleground states like Ohio and Florida,” Larson said. “This will start a broader discussion about what can be done to make voter participation more relevant in presidential elections.”

The presidential candidate with the largest national popular vote total would be certified by each state’s chief election officer and awarded all of the state’s electoral votes.

The compact would become effective if and when states possessing a majority of electoral votes —270 votes — enact similar legislation. Any member state could withdraw from the compact at any time. Any request to withdraw from the compact occurring within six months of a presidential election would not become effective until after the election.

Additionally, the compact would be terminated if the Electoral College system is abolished at any time.

Patrick Rosenstiel, representing National Popular Vote, spoke in favor of the bill. He said that in the last presidential election, the 13 smallest states received only four of 250 visits by the national campaigns.

“If we want to increase the influence of small states during the presidential election, we must fix the national system,” he said. “The national popular vote would accurately reflect the voice of Nebraskans.”

Patrick Borchers of Omaha opposed the bill, saying the national popular vote would eliminate any influence Nebraska voters currently have.

“[Nebraskans] are one-half of 1 percent of the population,” he said. “[With LB112] we are in effect giving away our votes to the other 99 percent. This is a radical attempt to amend the constitution without really having to amend it.”

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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