Nebraska state lawmakers face Trump-driven push to change electoral voting system

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Nebraska state lawmakers face a late push to change the unusual way the state awards electoral votes after former president donald trump and his allies supported a languishing proposal that could boost Trump’s chances of prevailing nationally in the electoral college in a closely contested race.

Nebraska is one of only two states that splits its electoral votes between the winners of state and congressional districts, which allowed Joe Biden get an electoral vote in the red state in 2020 through a swing district in the Omaha area. But Gov. Jim Pillen (R) and Trump on Tuesday backed a proposal to return the state to a winner-take-all system, possibly upending the final days of the state’s legislative session, which ends April 18. .

Nebraska state Sen. John Cavanaugh (D), who represents Omaha, said Democrats are “vigilant” and preparing for a bill to be attached to “any particular vehicle,” as they prepare to put “ procedural bars” and possible filibuster. .

The sponsor of the proposal. He has said that he does not have the votes to overcome a filibuster, but Trump’s last-minute intervention has sparked speculation that Republicans could regroup.

“Ultimately, the Nebraska legislature does not legislate in response to anyone’s tweets,” Cavanaugh said. Democrats, she added, are “firmly in favor of maintaining the division of the electoral vote. It’s part of what makes Nebraska special.”

The bill’s sponsor, Nebraska State Sen. Loren Lippincott (R), said in a statement that there are only six “business days” left in the session and two days left for bills to be scheduled for floor consideration. .

“My staff and I are doing everything we can to look at options to get this over the finish line,” Lippincott said. “However, the harsh reality of a two-day deadline is limiting.”

The only electoral vote in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District has become increasingly important to Democrats as they can no longer rely on the “blue wall” trifecta of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, after recent redistricting reduced those states’ weight in the electoral college. Maine is the only other state that does not award all of its electoral votes to the winner of the statewide vote.

Trump’s endorsement of the proposal came hours after a prominent ally, Charlie Kirk, rallied his many followers on social media to pressure Pillen and state lawmakers to move forward on the legislation. Pillen issued a statement of support within hours.

The Trump campaign had discussed the possibility of a late legislative push weeks ago and concluded there were significant obstacles, according to a person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the campaign’s internal efforts. But Trump decided Tuesday night, after an event in Wisconsin, to push hard for change after seeing the governor’s statement, which appeared to have been prompted by Kirk’s social media posts.

Nebraska has a unicameral legislature, with 49 legislators, called senators, who serve in a chamber that is officially nonpartisan. While registered Republicans have a majority, until Tuesday it was not filibuster-proof.

There were 16 Democrats and one independent member from Omaha, Megan Hunt, who was previously a Democrat. It takes thirty-three votes to break a filibuster, so if the 16 Democrats and Hunt stick together, they could form a firewall against legislation they oppose.

The legislature underwent a shakeup Wednesday when a Democratic member, Mike McDonnell, announced he was switching to the Republican Party, breaking the Democrats’ firewall. But McDonnell he told politician He would continue to oppose any proposed changes to the electoral voting system.

Still, McDonnell’s shift boosted GOP hopes for the Trump-backed proposal. U.S. Sen. Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.) said in a statement that the timing of the party switch is “an incredible opportunity to mobilize our Republican majority toward a winner-take-all system.”

Jane Kleeb, chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, said Wednesday morning that Democrats believed approving the vote was “unrealistic” at this time, but that closely monitoring the situation.

“Charlie Kirk is obviously not an idiot and he sent that tweet for a reason,” Kleeb said. “We are on guard. “We are supporting our 17 votes.”

Even then, it’s not clear that all Republicans want to prioritize the bill, which languished in committee and was considered dead until Tuesday.

“Until yesterday, this wasn’t a discussion at all, and all of a sudden it’s blown up, and a number of our legislators who are process-oriented are going to take a skeptical line,” said Gavin Geis, executive director of Common Cause Nebraska.

Kirk, founder and CEO of Turning Point USA, on Tuesday morning he urged his almost 3 million followers on X call Pillen and state legislators to urge them to support the proposal. Kirk called on Nebraskans to “demand his state stop needlessly giving strength to his political enemies.”

Within hours, Pillen issued a statement saying he is a “strong supporter” of the bill and has “been so from the beginning.” He asked Republicans in the legislature to send it to his desk.

Trump reacted quickly on his Truth Social platform, sharing Pillen’s statement and calling it a “very smart letter.” In a second, longer post, Trump thanked Pillen for his “bold leadership” and said he hopes the legislature “does the right thing,” urging Nebraskans to call their representatives.

Kirk has scheduled a rally Tuesday in Omaha to continue pushing for change.

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