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Nebraska lawmakers reject Trump-backed electoral changes

Nebraska legislators overwhelmingly voted against modifications to the state’s electoral system that would have awarded one presidential candidate all of its electoral votes – a change that would benefit former president Donald Trump.

On Wednesday evening, the Republican-majority legislature voted 36-8 against the proposal which would have switched the state’s current method of distributing electoral votes to a winner-take-all system.

Unlike most states, Nebraska does not award all five electoral votes to the statewide winner. Instead, two of its electoral votes go to the statewide winner and the other three are awarded to each congressional district.

While Nebraska is a solid red state, in 2020 President Joe Biden received one electoral vote thanks to the Second District.

That single electoral vote could, in theory, decide the outcome of the 2024 election if Mr Biden were to win Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan and Mr Trump were to win Georgia, Arizona and Nevada. Nebraska’s single electoral vote to Mr Biden would hand him the presidency otherwise that matchup would tie Mr Biden and Mr Trump, sending the decision to the House of Representatives.

Mr Trump and Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen pushed for the state’s lawmakers to adopt the change, claiming the state should do “what the founders intended” in making the change to align Nebraska with the rest of the US.

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen delivers his State of the State address, Jan. 25, 2023, (AP)
Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen delivers his State of the State address, Jan. 25, 2023, (AP)

Chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, Jane Kleeb,  disputed this, saying the current system is a “fair electoral system” and criticised Mr Pillen for succumbing to the pressure of conservative voices.

“We are proud of our unique electoral vote system and know all too well the economic benefits it generates with a national focus on our state,” Ms Kleeb said.

Senator Loren Lippincott, who sponsored the original bill, argued that a winner-take-all system would give rural voters more of a voice.

“The district plan, what we have now, discourages candidates from discussing issues that appeal to the state as a whole by rewarding candidates who visit our congressional districts with higher populations and income levels to the exclusion of rural Nebraska,” Mr Lippincott said last year.

But it was doubtful the measure would pass with just days remaining in the tightly-packed legislative session before it ends on 18 April.

Senator Julia Slama attached the change as an amendment to an unrelated bill in the hopes of getting it passed but ultimately it failed.

Though several days are left in the legislative session to advance the proposal,  Ms Slama said on X that the winner-takes-all proposal “isn’t moving in 2024”.