Winner-take-all election bill advances after cloture

After four days of general file debate, lawmakers voted March 2 to cease debate and advance a bill to select file 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, sponsored 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 current system disadvantages voters in rural parts of the state.

“I see LB10 as giving a voice to rural Nebraskans and [as] a way of unifying our state’s five electoral votes as one winner-take-all vote in presidential elections,” he said.

Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion supported the bill, saying other states are not following Nebraska’s lead and moving to the district plan. While the state has many unique systems that work well—such as the unicameral Legislature and public power—district allocation of electoral votes is not among them, he said.

“This is not one of the unique characteristics of Nebraska that I believe is to the advantage of Nebraskans,” Smith said.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers offered an amendment that would have required the secretary of state to divide Nebraska into five presidential elector districts. Each district would be allocated one of the state’s five Electoral College votes, and would cast it on behalf of the winner of the district’s popular vote.

Such a system would better represent voters across the entire state, Chambers said, calling LB10 an effort to silence the voting minority in Nebraska.

“The Republican Party is overwhelmingly in command in this state; nobody denies that,” Chambers said. “ And because of that very great imbalance, they should not go the next step to deliberately, notoriously [and] consciously take away what little bit of opportunity those who are not Republican would have to cast a vote that would indeed mean something.”

McCoy offered a motion to invoke cloture—or cease debate and force a vote on the bill—which senators narrowly approved on a 33-16 vote. A successful cloture motion requires at least 33 votes in support.

Following the cloture vote, the Chambers amendment failed 17-31. The bill then advanced to select file on a vote of 31-17.

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