Mon. May 20th, 2024

Nebraska legislators buck Trump by blocking Electoral College vote change — for now

By 37ci3 Apr4,2024

Nebraska lawmakers on Tuesday blocked a late effort to change how the state distributes Electoral College votes. public pressure from the former president Donald Trump likely to move to a winner-take-all system benefit him in autumn.

The measure fell short on a procedural vote, 8-36. While it’s possible that potential supporters could make another push to advance the proposal, serious hurdles remain as the legislative session draws to a close, and it’s unclear whether the proposal has enough support to cross the finish line and become law.

Nebraska currently awards three of its five electoral votes to the winning presidential candidate in each of its three congressional districts. In practice, that puts the competitive 2nd District in the Omaha area up for grabs, though Republicans usually win the statewide vote easily.

A failed attempt Wednesday night to change the state’s Electoral College law to give all votes to the statewide winner leaves the fate of the proposal in doubt just days before the legislative session.

State Sen. Loren Lippincott, who introduced the winner-take-all bill, told the Nebraska Examiner he will make one last attempt to get the measure to a vote before the legislative session ends on April 18. However, it is unclear whether there is enough support for the change to move forward.

Lippincott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Republican state Sen. Julie Slama proposed the legislative text of the election bill as an amendment to existing legislation, which is the shortest way to vote on the proposal.

But the amendment was rejected after three dozen lawmakers voted that it was insufficiently relevant to the main legislation and did not fulfill a state law requiring the amendment to be “German”. Slama was among eight people who voted for the amendment to be valid.

Lawmakers have repeatedly tried to change the state’s Electoral College split, It failed marginally in 2016. Lippincott introduced the most recent legislative proposal last year; It received little attention until this week, when GOP personality Charlie Kirk raised the issue on his podcast.

Trump and Nebraska GOP Gov. Jim Pillen on Tuesday urged state lawmakers to take steps to implement a winner-takes-all system. Less than 24 hours later, the seemingly forgotten laws were revived.

The renewed effort also drew attention from President Joe Biden’s campaign. Brent Comstock, a consultant who works with several elected Democrats in Nebraska and across the country, confirmed that the Biden campaign has reached out to Democrats in the state about the vote.

“Democrats in Nebraska care about the importance of the president’s agenda and want him to succeed here. [congressional district] 2 and across the state,” Comstock told NBC News. “They’re working together to make sure that happens: More jobs, access to health care [and] clean energy”.

Shortly before Tuesday’s vote, Slama said he could “read the writing on the wall” on the ground. He blasted his fellow Republicans for not supporting the measure, arguing that their vote against the “Germanness” of the amendment was a rejection of the winner-take-all system itself. Slama also accused them of not prioritizing the legislation when it was introduced more than a year ago and paying lip service to the proposal.

“If you’re going to tweet about an issue, put out press releases about an issue, and try to pressure the legislature to do something, maybe when the concept actually comes up and people vote for it, it might. you all have to get busy,” he said.

Slama shortly after the vote responded to the Nebraska journalist on the social network he said he did not believe the issue would be brought up for a vote again in this legislative session. It’s possible that Republicans like Lippincott could make another attempt, but the unicameral body is still in session with several legislative days. Republicans have warned there may not be enough time or support to overcome procedural hurdles.

Failing another chance at a vote, Pillen, a vocal supporter of moving to a winner-takes-all system, could call a special legislative session to address the issue. But even so, Republican lawmakers have openly questioned whether the plan has enough support to overcome opposition from Democrats and independents.

Republicans have long been pushing for a win-win system in Nebraska. Supporters like Slama argue that the current division reduces the political power of the state.

“Nebraska will lose its influence when other states don’t follow Nebraska’s lead when it comes to the distribution of presidential votes,” he said on the floor Wednesday night.

But the opponents of the bill have harsh words for both the legislation and its supporters.

Some criticized efforts to revive the bill, accused Republicans of taking orders from Trump and conservative activists, and hurled insults at Trump and Kirk. Others said Republicans were politicking at the last minute, near the end of the legislative session.

“What happens when the Democratic votes outnumber the Republican votes? Will everyone want to trade it back?” Democratic state Sen. Jen Day asked as she defended the current structure.

“By splitting the electoral vote, Nebraska forces candidates to reach out to voters across the state, listen to their concerns, and develop policies that resonate with a broader swath of the population. Doesn’t that sound great?”

Nebraska is one of only two states that did not award all of its Electoral College votes to a statewide winner, a method adopted prior to the 1992 presidential election. Since then, the state’s Omaha district has voted for a candidate other than the statewide winner only twice – for Barack Obama in 2008 and Joe Biden in 2020.

Although the debate is functionally about only one of the Electoral College’s 538 votes, knocking Biden out of contention for the 2nd District vote could be key in a tight presidential race.

A potential outcome would involve either presidential candidate winning 269 Electoral College votes — one vote shy of the 2,070 needed to win. In that case, the race would be sent to the US House of Representatives, where each state gets one vote.

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By 37ci3

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