Grassroots Effort in Nebraska Could Tip 2024 Election to Trump

Posted on Friday, April 12, 2024
by Shane Harris


President Donald J. Trump greets guests on the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, prior to boarding Marine One en route to Joint Base Andrews, Md. to begin his trip to Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Nevada. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

Currently, Nebraska and Maine are the only two states in the country that do not use a winner-take-all system to allocate their Electoral College votes. But if conservative activist Charlie Kirk and Cornhusker State Republicans have their way, that list could soon shrink to one – perhaps influencing the outcome of this November’s presidential contest.

Starting with the 1992 election, Nebraska began allocating one electoral vote to the winner of each of its three congressional districts, with the remaining two of the state’s five total votes going to whoever wins the overall popular vote in the state. In 2020, for instance, Donald Trump won districts 1 and 3, as well as the two at-large votes, but Joe Biden won district 2, centered on the city of Omaha.

Now, however, a grassroots campaign led by Kirk and supported by a number of conservative advocacy organizations are working to change state law to once again allocate all of the state’s Electoral College votes to the overall popular vote winner.

“Fly-over country has been insulted by the coastal elites for years. They’ve called you deplorables, clinging to your guns and clinging to your religion. Why on earth would we allow them to cling on to one of your electoral votes anymore?” Kirk said during a “winner-take-all” rally on April 9.

“If Massachusetts had a goofy electoral system where they were just the one red sliver of Massachusetts or California was giving [an] electoral vote to Trump, they would go into special session immediately,” he added.

Kirk recently spent several days on his radio show urging listeners to call and write to Nebraska Republican Governor Jim Pillen as well as GOP leaders in the state legislature to demand the change. Nearly 1,000 Nebraskans also joined Kirk at his rally in Omaha earlier this week.

Other conservative voices have also piled on, including popular talk show host Mark Levin. “Notice hardcore blue states never commit electoral suicide like this,” Levin said, referring to Nebraska’s system.

The pressure campaign quickly yielded results, with Pillen announcing that he was in support of changing to a winner-take-all approach. A spokesperson for the governor has said Pillen “is an enthusiastic supporter of winner-take-all, has been from the start, and will sign it into law the moment the Legislature puts it on his desk.”

Nebraska GOP Chairman Eric Underwood has also come out strongly in support of the change, saying that Republicans will “find a way to get it done.”

However, with the state’s legislative session scheduled to end on April 18, there is not enough time to pull the bill making the change to a winner-take-all system from committee and pass it. Accordingly, Kirk and others are urging Pillen to call a special session to pass the bill.

Currently, Republicans hold 33 of the 49 seats in Nebraska’s unique one-chamber legislature – just enough to break a Democrat filibuster in the event of a special session. However, intraparty bickering over unrelated issues, including tax and spending plans, is threatening GOP unity.

As reported by the Nebraska Examiner, “the question comes down to votes, and at last count, under peak pressure, legislative conservatives pushing for winner-take-all counted no more than 31 votes and at times as few as 29, depending on the timing of the proposed change.”

Despite the political challenges of passing the change before November, Kirk and others have remained optimistic, continuing to encourage Nebraskans to put pressure on their elected leaders to get it done. “I call this the Lazarus moment,” Kirk said at this week’s rally. “We’re going to bring this back from the dead.”

Nebraska’s decision on whether or not to change their system for allocating Electoral College votes could have dramatic implications come November. Under at least one plausible scenario, shown below, where Biden wins the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin while Trump wins Florida, Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina, Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District would determine whether the Electoral College vote count is a tie (sending the decision to the House, where Trump would likely win) or if Biden has the necessary 270 votes to hold on to the White House.

Democrats have unsurprisingly opposed making the change, arguing that it is purely an effort to help Trump and future Republican nominees win the White House.

And indeed, that is the case. But as Kirk and others have persuasively argued, no blue states are rushing to give Republicans a voice in the allocation of their Electoral College votes. In effect, by keeping the current system in place, Nebraska Republicans are breaking with tradition and 48 other states to advantage Democrats.

With just a few days left in the legislative session, conservatives in Nebraska and throughout the country will be eagerly awaiting action from Pillen and the legislature.

Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on X @ShaneHarris513.

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