Bill would reinstate winner-take-all electoral system

All five of Nebraska’s Electoral College votes would be assigned to the statewide winner in presidential elections under a bill considered Feb. 17 by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Sen. Julie Slama
Sen. Julie Slama

LB76, introduced by Peru Sen. Julie Slama, would end Nebraska’s split system of awarding electoral votes, in place since 1991. Currently, the statewide winner receives two electoral votes and the winner of each of the state’s three congressional districts receives one electoral vote. Nebraska is one of two states to use this system.

Allocating electoral votes by congressional district does not increase voter turnout and makes the redistricting process hyper-partisan, Slama said.

“It incentivizes gerrymandering when drawing congressional districts for the benefit of Electoral College votes, which is exactly what the framers of our Constitution fought against by empowering states — not segments of states — to choose the president of the United States,” Slama said. “Outcomes of presidential elections should never be determined by lines drawn by state-level politicians.”

Ryan Hamilton, executive director of the Nebraska Republican Party, testified in support of the bill. He called the current allocation a “voter inflation scheme” that benefits the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District at the expense of the rest of the state.

“This way of doing business has exacerbated the urban-rural divide within our state and divides our political strength for little or no reward,” Hamilton said.

Former state senator DiAnna Schimek testified in opposition to LB76. Schimek sponsored the legislation that established the current system and said it has achieved its original goal of increasing voter participation.

“It encourages more people to vote and that is very important in this era of deep personalization of politics,” Schimek said.

Also in opposition was Jaden Perkins of Black Votes Matter. He called the bill “anti-democratic” and a form of voter suppression.

“Many organizers, like myself, worked tirelessly to mobilize thousands of voters, specifically in north and south Omaha,” Perkins said. “All of that hard work resulted in President Biden and Vice-President Harris gaining the 2nd District’s electoral vote. And for the first time ever, a black woman got to cast that vote on our district’s behalf. This moment is history that should be honored by simply keeping the split vote the way it is.”

Al Davis, testifying on behalf of the Sierra Club, also spoke in opposition. Winner-take-all systems disenfranchise Republicans in “blue” states and Democrats in “red” states, he said.

“Nebraska’s current method builds enthusiasm among voters and offers a system that should be the model for the nation,” Davis said. “Winner-take-all amplifies the power of the large states over the small ones, and the swing states over the red or blue ones.”

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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