Voices & Choices

Nebraska Considers Changing How It Awards Electoral College Votes

Nebraska Considers Changing How It Awards Electoral College Votes
Nebraska is considering changes to the way that it allocates its Electoral College votes, such as going from a congressional district system to a winner-take-all system.

Nebraska is one of two states in the U.S. that awards its electoral votes by congressional district. (Maine is the other.) In 2008, for the first time in almost fifty years, Nebraska split its electoral votes between candidates, awarding one electoral vote to Obama and four to McCain.

Under the proposed legislation (LB 10 sponsored by Republican Senator Beau McCoy), Nebraska would switch to a winner-take-all system. Nebraska would award all of its electoral votes to the winner of the statewide popular vote.

Some have argued that the system that Nebraska currently uses, the congressional district system, is a better, fairer way to allocate electoral votes during presidential elections. FairVote's recently released Fuzzy Math: Wrong Way Reforms for Allocating Electoral Votes finds that the congressional district system in fact fails to support majority rule, decreases competition nationwide, and endangers voter equality.

However, there are other reasons why switching to the winner-take-all system would also be bad. The winner-take-all system has many of the same problems as the congressional district system. Additionally, any state-by-state decision to change the system for allocating electoral votes has the potential to be seen as partisan. Many consider Nebraska's debate over the congressional district system to be partisan. Democrats have argued that Republicans are trying to change the rules because one of the state's electoral votes went to Obama in 2008.

Nebraska has another piece of legislation that would change the way it awards electoral votes for the better: a bill to sign onto the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Sponsored by Senator Tyson Larson (R), LB 112 would have Nebraska join other states in awarding its electoral votes to the winner of the most votes in all fifty states and the District of Columbia.

If Nebraska legislators sign onto the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, the change in Nebraska's rules would not go into effect immediately. Nebraska would only award its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote after enough states have signed onto the same compact. The magic number is 270 electoral votes, the number of electoral votes a candidate needs to win the presidential election. The signing states must collectively hold 270 electoral votes to change the way states elect the president nationwide.

FairVote believes that using the national popular vote to elect the president is the best option available to states. It ensures whichever candidate wins the most votes nationwide will also win the presidential election, that every voter is equally valuable to candidates, and that candidates compete nationwide, rather than in a small handful of battleground states. And importantly, it avoids partisan bias. Both Democrats and Republicans have endorsed the plan, including the Republican senator in Nebraska who is sponsoring this legislation.

For more information, visit www.fairvote.org.

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