Nebraska Republicans cleared a major hurdle Monday in their efforts to reinstate a winner-take-all system in presidential elections, a move that would wipe out any chance of the state splitting its electoral votes as it did for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008. Lawmakers voted 32-15 to advance a bill that would end Nebraska’s practice of awarding its votes by congressional district. Nebraska and Maine are the only states where it’s possible to split electoral votes between opposing presidential candidates. Two of Nebraska’s electoral votes are awarded to the statewide winner, while the remaining three are distributed by congressional district. The proposal now headed to a final vote in the Legislature would require Nebraska to award all of its electoral votes in presidential elections to the winner of the state’s popular vote. Last year, supporters fell two votes short of the 33 needed to force an end to legislative debate on the measure. The state split its electoral votes for the first time in 2008, when Obama captured one from the 2nd congressional district in Omaha on his way to the presidency.
Sen. Beau McCoy, an Omaha Republican who introduced the measure, said Nebraska’s process has fallen short of its original goal of boosting voter turnout by creating districts that are competitive enough to attract presidential hopefuls.
Obama and Republican vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin made brief appearances in Omaha in 2008, but rural Nebraska hasn’t seen a candidate in decades. McCoy said Nebraska’s process was passed with the belief that other states would follow, but none ever did.