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Nebraska lawmakers face Trump-fueled push to change electoral vote system

Lawmakers
in
Nebraska
are
confronting
a
late
push
to
change
the
unusual
way
the
state
awards
electoral
votes
after
former
president

Donald
Trump

and
his
allies
came
out
in
support
of
a
languishing
proposal
that
could
boost
his
chances
of
prevailing
nationally
in
the
electoral
college
in
a
very
close
race.

Nebraska
is
one
of
only
two
states
that
divide
electoral
votes
among
statewide
and
congressional
district
winners,
which
allowed

Joe
Biden

to
pick
off
an
electoral
vote
in
the
red
state
in
2020
by
carrying
a
swing
district
in
the
Omaha
area.
But
Gov.
Jim
Pillen
(R)
and
Trump
on
Tuesday
endorsed
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.

The
effort
was
put
to
an
early
test
Wednesday
night
when
Republican
state
Sen.
Julie
Slama
tried
to
add
the
winner-take-all
proposal
to
an
unrelated
bill
as
an
amendment.
Democrats
rushed
to
the
microphone
to
denounce
the
move,
only
to
be
followed
by
Slama,
who
accused
members
of
her
own
party
of
preventing
a
reading
of
her
amendment.

“I
was
going
to
call
the
question.
But
I
can’t
now.
The
queue
has
mysteriously
filled
up
by
Republicans,”
Slama
said,
before
suggesting
that
her
amendment
could
still
get
a
vote
on
Thursday.
“Somebody
clearly
has
a
problem
with
us
actually
doing
the
things
we
are
tweeting
about.”

State
Sen.
John
Cavanaugh
(D),
who
represents
Omaha,
said
earlier
in
the
day
that
Democrats
are
ready
for
the
bill
to
be
attached
to
“any
particular
vehicle,”
while
readying
to
put
up
“procedural
bars”
and
a
possible
filibuster.

The
sponsor
of
the
proposal

has
said
he
does
not
have
the
votes

to
overcome
a
filibuster,
but
Trump’s
intervention
has
raised
speculation
that
Republicans
could
regroup.

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

A
group
focused
on
civic
engagement
in
the
state,
Civic
Nebraska,

vowed
to
organize
a
November
ballot
initiative

if
the
legislature
“succumbs
to
this
last-minute
pressure
from
outside
interests.”

Republicans
acknowledged
they
had
very
little
time
to
get
the
stand-alone
proposal
to
the
governor’s
desk.
The
bill’s
sponsor,
state
Sen.
Loren
Lippincott
(R),
noted
in
a
statement
that
there
are
two
days
left
for
bills
to
be
scheduled
for
floor
consideration.

“My
staff
and
I
are
doing
everything
we
can
to
seek
options
for
getting
this
to
the
finish
line,”
Lippincott
said.
“However,
the
harsh
reality
of
a
two-day
time
frame
is
limiting.”

The
speaker
of
the
legislature,
John
Arch
(R),
said
in
a
statement
that
the
bill
was
“not
prioritized
and
remains
in
committee.”

“I’m
not
able
to
schedule
a
bill
that
is
still
in
committee,”
he
said.

Another
Republican,
Sen.
Mike
Jacobson,
said
Wednesday
night
that
he
supported
winner-take-all
but
would
vote
against
adding
it
to
underlying
legislation
he
supports
if
the
amendment
has
the
effect
of
preventing
that
legislation
from
passing.

The
one
electoral
vote
in
Nebraska’s
2nd
Congressional
District
has

become
increasingly
important
for
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
large
social
media
following
to
pressure
Pillen
and
Nebraska
state
lawmakers
to
advance
the
legislation.
Pillen
issued
a
statement
of
support
within
hours.

The
Trump
campaign
had
looked
into
the
possibility
of
a
late
legislative
push
weeks
ago
and
concluded
that
there
were
significant
obstacles,
according
to
a
person
familiar
with
the
discussions
who
spoke
on
the
condition
of
anonymity
to
describe
internal
campaign
efforts.
But
Trump
decided
Tuesday
night
after
an
event
in
Wisconsin
to
push
hard
for
a
shift,
after
he
saw
the
statement
from
the
governor.

Nebraska
has
a
unicameral
legislature,
with
49
lawmakers,
referred
to
as
senators,
serving
in
one
chamber
that
is
officially
nonpartisan.
While
registered
Republicans
hold
a
majority,
it
was
not
filibuster-proof
as
of
Tuesday.

At
the
start
of
the
day
Wednesday,
there
were
16
Democrats
and
a
progressive
independent
member
from
Omaha,
Megan
Hunt,
who
was
previously
a
Democrat.
Thirty-three
votes
are
needed
to
break
a
filibuster,
so
if
all
16
Democrats
and
Hunt
stuck
together,
they
could
form
a
firewall
against
legislation
they
opposed.

Hunt
spoke
out
fiercely
against
winner-take-all
on
the
floor
Wednesday
night,
warning
Republicans
that
they
were
inviting
doxing
efforts
by
conservative
activists
if
they
even
held
a
vote
on
the
bill.
“By
having
a
recorded
vote
on
this,
you
are
going
to
be
a
target
for
them,”
she
told
Republicans
in
the
chamber.

She
suggested
that
Trump
supporters
campaign
harder
in
Nebraska
if
they
are
concerned
about
him
losing
an
electoral
vote.
“They
think
he
can’t
do
it
without
the
one
vote
from
Omaha,”
Hunt
said.
“I
say
he
should
come
here
and
earn
it.”

By
the
end
of
the
day,
one
of
the
Democrats,
Mike
McDonnell,
announced
he
was
switching
to
the
GOP.
But
McDonnell

told
Politico

and

reporters
at
the
state
Capitol

he
would
continue
opposing
any
proposed
changes
to
the
electoral
vote
system
and
would
not
vote
to
end
a
filibuster
on
the
issue.

McDonnell’s
switch
nonetheless
buoyed
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
awesome
opportunity
to
mobilize
our
Republican
majority
to
a
winner-take-all
system.”

The
Trump
campaign
also
was
encouraged
by
McDonnell’s
decision.
A
Trump
campaign
official
who
spoke
on
the
condition
of
anonymity
to
discuss
strategy
said
Wednesday
that
Nebraska
Republicans
“should
expect
to
see
continued
efforts
and
pressure,
because
Republicans
have
a
filibuster-proof
majority”
now.

Jane
Kleeb,
chair
of
the
Nebraska
Democratic
Party,
said
Wednesday
morning
that
Democrats
believed
passing
the
vote
was
“unrealistic”
at
this
point
but
were
closely
monitoring
the
situation.

“Charlie
Kirk
is
obviously
not
an
idiot
and
sent
out
that
tweet
for
a
reason,”
Kleeb
said.
“We’re
on
guard.
We’re
shoring
up
our
17
votes.”

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

“Until
yesterday,
this
wasn’t
a
discussion
at
all,
and
then
suddenly
it
blew
up,
and
several
of
our
legislators
that
are
process-oriented
will
take
a
skeptical
line,”
said
Gavin
Geis,
executive
director
of
Common
Cause
Nebraska.

A
Democratic
state
senator,
Wendy
DeBoer,
was
more
blunt.

“It
would
literally
take
a
complete
distortion
of
all
our
rules,”
she
said.
“It
would
be
incredibly
unprecedented
to
try
to
make
all
of
this
happen
now.”

Kirk,
founder
and
CEO
of
Turning
Point
USA,
on
Tuesday

urged
his
nearly
3
million
followers
on
X

to
call
Pillen
and
state
lawmakers
to
urge
support
for
the
proposal.
Kirk
asked
Nebraskans
to
“demand
their
state
stop
pointlessly
giving
strength
to
their
political
enemies.”

Within
hours,
Pillen
released
a
statement
saying
he
is
a
“strong
supporter”
of
the
bill
and
has
“been
from
the
start.”
He
called
on
Republicans
in
the
legislature
to
send
it
to
his
desk.

Trump
quickly
reacted
on
his
Truth
Social
platform,
sharing
Pillen’s
statement
and
calling
it
a
“very
smart
letter.”
In
a
longer
second
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
next
Tuesday
in
Omaha
to
continue
pushing
for
the
change.

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