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Trump allies forge ahead with long-shot pressure campaign to shift Nebraska’s electoral votes

The move pushed by conservative activist Charlie Kirk and the state’s GOP governor could add to Trump’s Electoral College tally against Biden.
Charlie Kirk
Charlie Kirk in West Palm Beach, Fla., on July 15.Eva Marie Uzcategui / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

OMAHA, Neb. — Local Republicans joined conservative activist Charlie Kirk on Tuesday evening to rally support for legislation that would shift Nebraska’s allocation of electoral votes to a winner-take-all system, a change that could benefit Donald Trump in November’s election.

While the bill has stalled ahead of the end of the state’s current legislative session on April 18, speakers at a rally at a church here hosted by Kirk’s Turning Point Action called on attendees to contact state leaders and demand a special legislative session to enact the change. 

Nebraska and Maine are the only two states that don’t use the winner-take-all system to award Electoral College votes. Nebraska doles out an electoral vote to the winner of each of its three congressional districts, while the two others go to the winner of the statewide vote. In 2020, Trump won four of the state’s five electoral votes, while Joe Biden took one from Nebraska’s Omaha-based 2nd District. 

“Flyover country has been insulted by the coastal elites for years. They’ve called you deplorables, clinging to your gun and clinging to your religion. Why on Earth would we allow them to cling on to one of your electoral votes anymore?” Kirk said.

“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 [a] special session immediately,” he added.

Nebraska GOP Gov. Jim Pillen said Tuesday night that he would call a special session “when there is sufficient support in the Legislature to pass it.” Efforts to attach the Electoral College measure to other bills hit a roadblock last week in the state’s unicameral, technically nonpartisan Legislature. 

“I am steadfast in my commitment to get winner-take-all over the finish line, thereby honoring our constitutional founding, unifying our state and ending the three-decades-old mistake of allocating Nebraska’s electoral votes differently than all but one other state,” Pillen wrote on X.

State Sen. Loren Lippincott originally introduced a winner-take-all bill in January 2023, but it had been stalled in the Legislature before the last-minute push from Trump’s allies. Lippincott told the Lincoln Journal Star he now believes it’s impossible to pass the legislation in the current session, although he thinks it could be resurrected next year. 

Still, Kirk and other Republicans on the national stage aren’t giving up on passing the change before the 2024 presidential election. 

“We were told by people in the unicameral [Legislature], ‘This thing is dead, this thing is over,’” Kirk said. “We call this the Lazarus Project. We are bringing this thing back from the dead.”

But even some Nebraska Republicans who have been proponents of the winner-take-all system say the national attention doesn’t capture the totality of the legislative reality in the state.

“They don’t understand our system, they don’t understand our process, and they don’t understand that this was such a poorly planned and orchestrated bill that — it is where it is because no one took care of the bill and did the things that needed to be done to have it prepped,” state Sen. Tom Brewer said, according to the Journal Star. “Only because of Charlie Kirk’s comments did it get any momentum.”

Arguing that Nebraska has the “will to win,” state Republican Party Chairman Eric Underwood called on voters to contact lawmakers about the winner-take-all push.

“Every day, we’re going to wake up, and we’re going to go one more phone call, one more dollar, one more door, one more candidate. And we’re going to do it in every way that we can with our local races, and we’re going to do it in Nebraska, and we are going to make history together,” Underwood said. “And when we pass that one more electoral vote, when we get LB 764 across, we’re going to elect Donald J. Trump to be the next president.”

Jerry Jorgensen, a Lincoln resident who attended Kirk’s rally, said he thinks lawmakers should have implemented the winner-take-all approach decades ago. 

“Nebraska is predominantly Republican in a very, very big way, and there’s no need to have a little blue dot of Omaha take an electoral vote,” he said.