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Exclusive: Nebraska’s Presidential Vote Still a Split Decision

By   /   March 10, 2011  /   News  /   8 Comments

“Winner-Take-All” has lost again.

The fight over Nebraska’s five electoral ballots in the 2012 vote for President has ended in a draw and in this game the tie goes to the Democrats.

As Nebraska Watchdog first reported last month, it appeared State Senator Paul Schumacher of Columbus, a Republican, would be the key swing vote siding with the three Democrats on the Legislature’s Government Committee.

On Wednesday Schumacher delivered.

According to the Committee Chairman, State Senator Bill Avery of Lincoln, by a vote of 4-4 a proposal to scrap Nebraska’s system of split electoral votes died for the year. Avery also says he doubts the bill will pass next year, when the GOP gets one last chance to reshuffle the deck before Election Day 2012.

For now Nebraska continues to join Maine as the only states which are not winner take all in the Electoral College. In Nebraska two of the state’s five electoral votes go to the winner of the statewide popular vote. The other three votes go to the winner of the popular vote in each of the state’s three congressional districts. 

In 2008, President Obama won Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Omaha. The victory left Obama with one electoral vote from Nebraska; Republican John McCain got the other four.

The fight over the ’08 Omaha vote found the Obama campaign pumping money and manpower into the 2nd District; two items Democrats will presumably need in 2012 to hold onto Ben Nelson’s Senate seat and to take another run at Republican Congressman Lee Terry

Given those stakes the Nebraska GOP tried to put the fear of re-election into the Legislature’s Republican lawmakers. GOP Chairman Mark Fahleson announced earlier this year that “failure to support (winner take all) could affect Republican Party endorsements and support in future races.” 

But when it came to Schumacher the move backfired. Schumacher first told Nebraska Watchdog, “The idea of a political party having a litmus test on a vote bothers me.”

So despite holding a wide 34-15 lead over Democrats in the Legislature, the GOP has come up short.

Reported by Joe Jordan, joe@nebraskawatchdog.org

Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here


Joe formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • Scott Knudsen

    State Senator Paul Schumacher exercised his momentary political clout rather than his questionable intellect.

  • Dirt

    This is good news. Thank goodness at least one of our “servants” in Lincoln has the prudence and sensibility to put the voters above the political parties. My state senator (Pahls) sits on this committee; now that he has voted for this proposal, which I feel is a direct assault on my rights as a voter, I will never vote for him again.

  • http://ElectoralReformCalifornia.com Tony Andrade

    Congressional District Electors, YES, is the message to the people of Nebraska and the other States. In California we are planing to copy Nebraska by passing a initiative #10-0024 to have a presidential election in all 53 Congressional Districts. Los Angeles with so many people selects whom

    California votes for president. “Winner take all” is not fair and undemocratic.

  • The Blancmange

    Major props to Schu. I’m temporarily proud to have been born in Columbus. We shouldn’t even be having this debate. The Electoral College should have been scrapped in the 19th century.

  • Checkeredsquare

    I am not a Democrat and I am glad this did not pass. As a Republican I want more people to be involved in the process of selecting a representative for our district not at large representatives. I think this was short sighted and when and if we go to two districts this could be a problem for the (us) Republicans.

  • kohler

    A survey of 977 Nebraska voters conducted on January 26–27, 2011, showed 67% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

    In a second question presenting a three-way choice among various methods of awarding Nebraska’s electoral votes,

    * 16% favored the statewide winner-take-all system (i.e., awarding all five of Nebraska’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes statewide);

    * 27% favored Nebraska’s current system of awarding electoral votes by congressional district; and

    * 57% favored a national popular vote.

    In a third question, 39% of voters think that changing the method by which Nebraska awards its electoral votes should be a high priority for the Nebraska Legislature in 2011, while 61% said that it should not.

    The first question was: “How do you think we should elect the President: Should it be the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states, or the current Electoral College system?”

    On the first question, support for a national popular vote, by political affiliation was 78% among Democrats, 62% among Republicans, and 63% among others. By congressional district, support for a national popular vote was 65% in the First congressional district, 66% in the Second district (which voted for Obama in 2008); and 72% in the Third District. By gender, support for a national popular vote was 76% among women and 59% among men. By age, support for a national popular vote, 73% among 18–29 year-olds, 67% among 30–45 year-olds, 65% among 46–65 year-olds, and 69% among those older than 65.


  • World Of Hurt

    Schumacher believes he showed backbone with his action, but the reality is he just made himself a political eunuch in the Legislature. He was never embraced by the 15 Democrats and now he’ll be a pariah within the GOP.

  • Jim Mason

    It’s good that this story is getting increased attention.

    The above is going to be a very important issue for 2012 and it is amazing how fast we are getting there.

    Remember, the most important issue that everyone needs to focus on is this, “We must win the Presidency and win control of the House and Senate.” Everything will be much easier to address after that is done. With Obama having an unbelievable one billion dollar campaign war chest, removing him as President will be incredibly hard. The RNC is practically broke.