The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee voted 7-1 to advance a bill to general file Feb. 4 that would reinstate a winner-take-all system for allocating Nebraska’s presidential electoral votes.
Currently, the winner of Nebraska’s statewide popular vote receives two Electoral College votes. The state’s three congressional districts also award one electoral vote each based on the popular vote winner in each district. Maine is the only other state to use this system.
LB10, introduced by Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy, would reinstate a winner-take-all system and award all five electoral votes to the winner of the state’s popular vote.
McCoy said the district plan has led presidential campaigns—when they focus attention on Nebraska at all—to limit their focus to the 2nd Congressional District, which was won by President Barack Obama in 2008.
“I think we’re a small state anyway [and] we further dilute our effectiveness as a state in national elections when we split our portion of electoral votes,” McCoy said.
Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale agreed. Testifying in support of the bill, he said Nebraska is at a disadvantage when 48 other states use the winner-take-all system. He said small states like Nebraska with a dominant statewide political party can have more influence at the regional and national level if they do not dilute their Electoral College votes.
“We need all of those electoral votes to have an impact on the outcome of presidential elections,” Gale said.
Former state senator DiAnna Schimek, who sponsored the bill that enacted Nebraska’s current electoral system, testified in opposition to LB10. She said the goal of the district system is to encourage political participation and to make voters who are in the political minority feel that their vote counts.
“When it was first introduced, it wasn’t immediately partisan nor was it immediately controversial,” Schimek said. “The most important reason for enacting the [district system] … is that it encourages grassroots activity.”