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Nebraska push on winner-take-all electoral votes takes another hit in Legislature

A renewed GOP effort to change how the state allocates its electoral votes ran into another roadblock Friday as the Legislature wraps up its session.
James Pillen during an unveiling ceremony for the Congressional statue of Willa Cather, in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill
James Pillen during an unveiling ceremony for the congressional statue of Willa Cather, on Capitol Hill, in 2023.Andrew Harnik / AP file

The renewed, Donald Trump-backed effort to change how Nebraska allocates its Electoral College votes faced another roadblock Friday as the Legislature looks to wrap up its session. 

Speaker John Arch said on the floor Friday morning that amendments attaching entire bills to other measures will no longer be accepted, as the unicameral body is running out of time to process legislation before its session ends April 18.

“The time for adding bills to bills is over,” Arch said, according to a copy of his floor speech shared with NBC News. 

Arch’s announcement comes amid last-ditch efforts to attach a measure changing the state’s electoral vote system to other pieces of legislation.

Nebraska is one of two states that does not award all of its Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who carries the state. Instead, three of its five electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who carries each of the three congressional districts, effectively putting one electoral vote in play, from the competitive Omaha-based 2nd District. 

Changing to a winner-take-all system would effectively guarantee Trump all five Nebraska electoral votes in 2024.

The winner-take-all bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Loren Lippincott, had planned to try to attach his bill to another piece of legislation, after a separate attempt to do so failed on a procedural vote late Wednesday night. Lippincott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Arch’s announcement. 

Although a legislative path forward appears closed now, GOP Gov. Jim Pillen could still call a special session to address the issue. 

Pillen’s office also did not respond to a request for comment Friday. But Thursday evening he appeared to acknowledge the effort faces an uphill climb, telling reporters at a news conference: “We can’t fix winner-take-all in 30 hours. It’s been a problem for 30 years. We have to win elections. We have to get in the game.” 

Pillen also noted that proponents of a winner-take-all system do not have support from 33 legislators, which is necessary to overcome a filibuster, per the Nebraska Examiner.

Republicans have long sought to shift the state to a winner-take-all system, since the GOP nominee typically wins the state. That effort gained new momentum in recent days thanks to national attention garnered by conservative activist Charlie Kirk. After Kirk discussed the system on his podcast this week, Pillen and Trump both called on the Legislature to act, but there are only a few legislative days left on the calendar. 

The state’s unicameral Legislature is technically nonpartisan, but Republicans do have a filibuster-proof, 33-seat majority after state Sen. Mike McDonnell switched parties this week and joined the GOP. However, McDonnell has said he would still not vote to end debate on a winner-take-all bill. 

Lawmakers will continue to face pressure to change the system. Kirk is scheduled to appear at a rally in Omaha on Tuesday hosted by his group Turning Point Action. 

And on Friday, Kirk pushed Pillen to call a special session to address the issue.