Winner-take-all election bill stalls on second round

After three days of select file debate, an attempt to force a vote on a bill that would reinstate a winner-take-all system for allocating Nebraska’s presidential electoral votes failed March 17.

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.

“In light of the fact that we are a small, agriculturally-based state, we should protect and uplift the entire state by holding our entire five votes together in the winner-take-all system that we used in Nebraska prior to 1991,” McCoy said.

During select file debate March 9, Crete Sen. Laura Ebke said Nebraska’s system reflects the intent of the framers of the U.S. Constitution. Until 1832, she said, it was not unusual for states to split their Electoral College votes.

“This is about being true to the intent of the Constitution and I can’t get past that,” she said.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers offered a series of unsuccessful amendments and motions on select file in an effort to extend debate. In his opposition to LB10, he said the bill would discourage political participation.

“This bill represents an attempt to put in place in Nebraska a return to what the Republican Party wants to see happen—that is to totally demolish any effective political participation by people who are not Republicans,” Chambers said.

Ebke expressed a similar concern, noting that Democratic candidates consistently garner 30 to 35 percent of the vote in Nebraska. Given those numbers, she said, it is logical that an electoral outcome that reflects the state’s diversity would encourage greater political participation in areas of Nebraska that are closely divided between the two major parties.

“We should all want people to be involved, even when they disagree with us,” Ebke said. “I want more people involved in our [political] system, not less.”

McCoy said Nebraska’s plan has not boosted voter turnout as was promised when enacted in 1991, nor has it become a national trend.

“It has not happened in any other state,” he said. “It has not even gotten close in any other state.”

McCoy offered a motion to invoke cloture—or cease debate and force a vote on the bill. The motion failed on a 31-18 vote. Thirty-three votes were needed.

A failed cloture motion prevents further debate on a bill for the day. LB10 is unlikely to be scheduled for further debate this session.

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