Nebraska governor Jim Pillen pushes winner take all vote

Efforts to revert Nebraska’s electoral system to winner-takes-all of the presidential popular vote are being reignited as Republican Gov. Jim Pillen and other GOP state leaders push for a special legislative session to get a bill passed.

Pillen confirmed late Tuesday evening that there isn’t enough time in the current legislative session to resolve the issue, as the session ends on April 18. He did, however, enthusiastically endorse the idea of triggering a special session after a rally in Omaha organized by Charlie Kirk, a conservative talk show host and ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump.

“I am steadfast in my commitment to get winner-take-all over the finish line, thereby honoring our constitutional founding, unifying our state and ending the three-decade-old mistake of allocating Nebraska’s electoral votes differently than all but one other state,” Pillen said in a social media post. “I will sign WTA (winner-take-all) into law the moment the Legislature gets it to my desk.”

But holding a special session doesn’t guarantee a favorable result as several Republicans in the Legislature are not keen to make a change during an election year, according to the Nebraska Examiner. Even with a 33-vote majority in the 49-member Legislature, the GOP continues to fall short of the necessary votes.

The Cornhusker State has had a unique system for awarding its five electoral votes since 1991. Two are given to the presidential candidate who wins the majority of votes across the state, and the remaining three electoral votes are distributed to the winners of each of the three House races. At stake is the highly coveted Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District, known as “the blue dot” due to its more liberal-leaning tendencies. In the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden won the district, and in 2008, former President Barack Obama also carried it.

With Trump and Biden in a dead heat in general election polls, the 2024 race could come down to just a few electoral votes in key states. Trump is hoping to swing Nebraska’s system in his favor.

To win the presidency, a candidate must earn at least 270 of the 538 electoral points.

More: How do electoral votes work? These pictures explain the Electoral College process.

What’s the status of the system?

An attempt to change the state’s electoral college system failed last week on an 8-36 vote. GOP state Sen. Julie Slama also filed an amendment to an unrelated bill to change the law, but lawmakers rejected the amendment and argued it was not relevant enough to be added to the legislation.

Pillen argued in a statement that a winner-takes-all system would put “Nebraska into line with 48 of our fellow states, better reflect the founders’ intent, and ensure our state speaks with one unified voice in presidential elections.”

Maine is the only other state that does not follow the winner-takes-all system.

What has Trump said?

Trump has urged Nebraska lawmakers to ram through the measure, despite the tight timeframe they are under.

“Most Nebraskans have wanted to go back to this system for a very long time, because it’s what 48 other States do – It’s what the Founders intended, and it’s right for Nebraska,” Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social. “Thank you Governor for your bold leadership. Let’s hope the Senate does the right thing.”

The former president hasn’t made a similar push to change Maine’s electoral college system, which tends to benefit Republican presidential candidates.

Similar to Nebraska, Maine allocates two electoral votes to the state’s popular vote winner and one electoral vote to the winner of each House race. Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes much of the northern part of the state, typically votes more conservative. Trump won the district and its electoral vote in 2016 and 2020.

Democrats are pushing back at the Republican’s last-minute Hail Mary, claiming the governor is giving himself political cover.

“Pillen is throwing [the Legislature] under the bus because the votes are not there to change our electoral vote system,” Jane Kleeb, the chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, posted on X, former Twitter, on Wednesday.

Contribution: Karissa Waddick, USA TODAY


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