State lawmakers are again considering whether to eliminate Nebraska's unusual ability to split its electoral votes in presidential elections, but the legislation introduced Thursday quickly prompted claims from Democrats that it's "sour grapes."
The legislation comes more than a year after Barack Obama won one of Nebraska's five electoral votes to become the first presidential candidate to split the state's votes.
Under a bill (LB777) introduced by Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, Nebraska would shift to a winner-take-all system, which is used by all but two states. McCoy argues the current method of distributing votes puts the state at a disadvantage and dilutes the state's influence on the national political stage.
Nebraska is an oddity and needs to be brought in line with practices across the country, McCoy said.
"We're really just playing by two different sets of rules," he said.
A 1991 law dictates that two of Nebraska's five electoral votes go to the statewide winner of the popular vote. Additionally, one is awarded from each of the state's three congressional districts.
Maine is the only other state that can split its electoral votes.
Obama won the popular vote in Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District, which includes the state's largest city, Omaha. The state's four other votes went to Republican John McCain. Obama also became the first Democrat to win any Nebraska electoral vote since 1964.
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McCoy, a Republican in the nonpartisan Legislature, is unhappy with the will of the people and now wants to change the rules, according to a statement by state Democratic Party Chairman Vic Covalt.
"That's the reaction you come to expect from spoiled children who lose playground games," Covalt said.
In an interview, he called the bill a waste of time and said the state faces more pressing issues.
But bill supporters say the legislation has been introduced repeatedly, most recently in 2007, dispelling claims that Obama's win was the impetus for McCoy's bill.
In 2007, a similar bill never advanced to a debate before the full Legislature. In the 1990s, lawmakers twice supported ditching the split system, but the bills were vetoed by then-Gov. Ben Nelson, a Democrat.
Until larger states like California start splitting their electoral votes, it doesn't make sense for Nebraska to do so, said state Republican Party Chairman Mark Fahleson.
"We're watering down our five electoral votes," he said.