Secretary of State John Gale and some state senators have thrown their support behind LB382, which if passed would change the way Nebraska distributes its electoral votes to a winner-take-all system.
This one is a head-scratcher, considering that Gale has worked diligently to increase voter turnout.
Nebraska and Maine are currently the only states that distribute their share of electoral votes by congressional district. All other states are winner-take-all. But that doesn’t mean Nebraska and Maine are doing it wrong. It just might mean they are doing it better.
In Nebraska, the presidential candidate who wins the state’s popular vote gets two of the state’s five electoral votes. The outcome of that race in each of the other three congressional districts determines which candidate receives the remaining three votes.
In testimony last week before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, Gale said he believed distributing electoral votes in a winner-take-all system benefitted smaller states like Nebraska. “Dividing up its electoral votes weakens Nebraska’s opportunity to have any influence or importance with any new administration if it only delivers a few of its total electoral votes to the winning candidate,” he said.
That may be over-emphasizing it a bit, considering that Nebraska receives just five total electoral votes and has split those votes only once since 1991 when the current system was adopted. That one time was in 2008, when Barack Obama received one electoral vote after winning Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional district. Candidate John McCain won the state’s other four electoral votes that year (2 for winning the state’s popular vote and 2 for winning each of the other two congressional districts).
The move is seen as a partisan ploy on the Republicans’ part by some because Nebraska is a heavy GOP state and it’s likely that the state’s popular vote winner will be a Republican. If that truly is the reason why the bill is being proposed, they ought to think twice, because currently in Nebraska, the total number of registered voters who are either Democrat or nonpartisan (602,436) outnumber Republican voters (558,145).
We still think the winner-take-all system is a bad idea, because the current system gives every voter some hope that their candidate might be able to steal at least one of the electoral votes. What would motivate Democrats and nonpartisans to take part in the presidential election when they know that their votes wouldn’t really count? Those votes matter now, as evident by President Obama winning one of them in 2008. But had this proposal been in force back then, their votes wouldn’t have mattered even though their candidate carried their district.
We don’t think the system is broken. So we hope it is left alone.