Nebraska Republicans Fail|to Change Vote System

     LINCOLN, Neb. (CN) – An attempt by Nebraska Republicans to reinstate a winner-take-all system for presidential electors failed after a filibuster by one of their colleagues.
     Nebraska is one of only two states Maine being the other where it’s possible for opposing candidates in the presidential general election to secure votes from the state in the electoral college.
     Both Nebraska and Maine award one electoral vote to the winner of each of the state’s congressional districts, and the other two to the statewide winner.
     Nebraska voted to adopt of split-electoral vote system in 1991, and first employed it in 2008.
     But this year Republican lawmakers perhaps reflecting the unrest of the electorate in what has been a highly unusual primary season wanted to go back to the state’s former winner-take-all practice.
     “Returning Nebraska to the winner-take-all system is a matter of fairness. It is not partisan politics,” Sen. Beau McCoy, an Omaha Republican, told Courthouse News.
     McCoy introduced LB10 during the session, the thirteenth such effort to repeal the state’s vote-splitting system since it was changed 25 years ago.
     “Every electoral vote counts and candidates should campaign across the state to earn the votes of all Nebraskans. Although I am at the close of my last session due to term limits, I believe winner-take-all legislation will continue to be introduced in the future.”
     But on Tuesday, the proposal, known as Legislative Bill 10, fell one vote short of what was needed to keep it afloat.
     The vote, which was 32-17, came after a filibuster by Independent Sen. Ernie Chambers, a 42-year veteran of the legislature.
     Had it been enacted, LB10 would have revised state law to require each presidential elector from the state to vote for the candidate who received the most votes in the state as a whole, rather than requiring the state’s three congressmen to vote for the candidate who received the most votes in their individual congressional district.
     In 2008, the state split its votes 4-1, with President Barack Obama picking up a single Electoral College vote from the 2nd congressional district, which represents Omaha.
     This is the only instance of Nebraska splitting its votes since the state changed from a winner-take-all method in 1991, although presumptive Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has vowed to again put the vote into play if she’s the nominee.
     Vince Powers, chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, told Courthouse News that the push to change the rules by legislative means shows that Republicans have little confidence in their presidential candidates to win the electoral vote from the 2nd congressional district.
     “True Nebraskans love our unique state with its Unicameral and the Electoral College split,” Powers said. “The GOP party bosses are desperate to keep Trump or Cruz from campaigning in Nebraska this fall.”
     The 2nd district is currently represented by Rep. Brad Ashford, a first-term Democrat, and is generally considered as centrist on the political spectrum.
     In the end, the failure of LB10 shows how difficult politics-as-usual has become, even in a state that’s usually dominated by conservative sentiment, like Nebraska. The result also illustrates the effect Ernie Chambers has been capable of throughout his four-decade tenure.
     Chambers, one of two African-American senators in the legislature, threatened to derail all remaining legislature during this last week of the 2016 session if LB10 was brought up for a final vote.
     Last week Chambers tied up most all business in the state house by filibustering for hours without cease, including long stretches when he sang Motown ballads or read from the Bible.
     After a contentious legislative season in 2015, with senators overruling three vetoes from Gov. Pete Ricketts, including one that abolished the state’s death penalty, this year’s session has been tame in comparison. Nebraska’s legislature is officially non-partisan, but issues like this delineate clearly between liberal and conservative senators, even if their party allegiances aren’t stated.

%d bloggers like this: