Nebraska's GOP governor wants a winner-take-all electoral system

Nebraska's GOP governor wants a winner-take-all electoral system

Nebraska's GOP governor wants a winner-take-all electoral system

OMAHA, Neb. — With only months to go before what is shaping up to be a hotly contested presidential election, Nebraska's Republican governor is calling on state lawmakers to move forward with a “winner-take-all” system of awarding Electoral College votes.

“It would bring 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,” Gov. Jim Pillen said in a written statement Tuesday. "I call upon fellow Republicans in the Legislature to pass this bill to my desk so I can sign it into law.”

Nebraska and Maine are the only states that split their electoral votes by congressional district, and both have done so in recent presidential elections. Both states' lawmakers have also made moves to switch to a winner-take-all system and have found themselves frustrated in that effort.

In Nebraska, the system has confounded Republicans, who have been unable to force the state into a winner-take-all system since Barack Obama became the first presidential contender to shave off one of the state's five electoral votes in 2008. It happened again in 2020, when President Joe Biden captured Nebraska's 2nd District electoral vote.

Nebraska Republicans, too, have continuously faced hurdles in changing the current system, largely because the state's unique one-chamber Legislature requires 33 votes to get any contested bill to passage. Republicans in the officially nonpartisan Legislature currently hold 32 seats, but one Democrat — Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell — announced Wednesday that he is switching his party affiliation to Republican. McDonnell cited his censure by the Nebraska Democratic Party for supporting abortion restrictions last year.

Despite Pillen's call to pass a winner-take-all change, it seems unlikely that Nebraska lawmakers would have time to get the bill out of committee, much less advance it through three rounds of debate, with only six days left in the current session. Some Nebraska lawmakers acknowledged as much.