February 11, 2016

Electoral College count could change in Nebraska under bill (AUDIO)

Whether how Nebraska distributes its Electoral College votes helps or hurts the state comes before a legislative committee hearing a bill that would make a change, once again.

State Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont sponsors LB 382 that would revert back to a winner-take-all Electoral College for Nebraska.

“When Nebraska changed from winner-take-all to our present system, there were claims that Nebraska would see an influx of presidential candidates and campaigns. Claims were also made that voter turnout would markedly increase. Those claims have not been realized in any great measure,” Janssen testified before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Only Nebraska and Maine distribute electoral votes in the presidential election by Congressional district. It has made a difference only once in Nebraska. In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama won an electoral vote from the Second Congressional District by winning Omaha though he lost the state.

Former state Senator Dianna Schimek, now a Lincoln City Councilmember, told the committee she pushed for the change in 1991 to make Nebraska more relevant in presidential politics.

“With the possibility of contests in one or two districts in the general election, the hope was that more candidates would come to Nebraska and more candidates would establish campaign organizations in our state,” Schimek stated.

Schimek said that most important reason for the change is that it encourages grassroots activity and encourages more people to vote.


AUDIO: LB382 hearing, part two. [35 min.]

The chief election officer for the state, Secretary of State John Gale, told committee members he has changed his mind about the issue.

Gale said he previously supported Congressional distribution of electoral votes, believing it reflected the same independent spirit that led Nebraska to establish the nation’s only Unicameral.

Yet, he said his reflection on two questions has prompted a change in his thinking; does it make sense for the country and does it make sense for the state?

Gale said the research of his office disclosed there would be chaos if every state split their votes.

“And as we studied the issue of distribution by Congressional district, we found that if every state were to adopt the same system that Nebraska and Maine have, it would be highly unlikely in most circumstances that either candidate of either major party would get the 270 electoral votes they need,” Gale testified.

Gale said the winner-take-all format makes smaller states more relevant in the presidential elections.

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