To divvy or not to divvy?


Nebraska State Senator Beau McCoy has filed a bill in the Unicameral to change Nebraska’s Electoral Vote apportionment process. His bill would change Nebraska’s divvying up of the votes by Congressional District to the way the rest of the states do theirs (except Maine) — winner take all.

You’ll remember, of course, that President Barack Obama swung the 2nd District’s EV in 2008 — the first time a Dem has done so since the current system went into effect in 1991.

Dems such as State Senator Heath Mello calls the bill “sour grapes”. Well of course he does, because the Dems benefitted by it in the last election.

But, the OWH says that “Republican lawmakers have tried nine times to repeal it. They managed to pass two bills — but then-Gov. Ben Nelson, a Democrat, vetoed both.”

(My his bryl-creamed head keeps rearing itself, does it not?)

So that pretty much ends that argument.

But we received an email last night from a UNL Law Student who sees the politics of it this way:

Assuming that two votes will not decide a presidential election, wouldn’t a concerted effort by the Nebraska GOP to change our electoral laws open the party up to the “assault on democracy/anti-democratic” argument?

Nebraska voters are traditionally conservative but they have also repeatedly shown a streak of independence. The NE GOP already plays kingmaker anytime a new statewide elected office becomes vacant (e.g. Daub being forced out of the Senatorial race so that Johanns could breeze to victory);

I wonder if the combination of the above “anti-democratic” and “kingmaker” arguments could be combined to create some sort of independent populist avenue for Democratic success.

Here was my (late night) response:

If it passes, NE would simply be in line with the rest of the country.

In the mean time, who knows if a Prez race could come down to 1 or 2 EVs? Who would have thought it would have been about some hanging chads in FL?

I think Nebraskans like being mentioned, more than anything else, when the point about splitting votes comes up. Sort of like being the only state with a Unicameral.

(Frankly, what needs to happen is an overhaul of the voting system so that the Primaries aren’t so heavily front loaded. But that’s a whole different animal.)

I’m not sure I feel strongly either way. I’m not sure it would be very bad or good either way. (And ask Hagel and Heineman about kingmakers.)

I really think people would shrug.

So just some food for thought on your freezing cold Friday afternoon.

Your thoughts?

34 comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    What a great product of a Harvey Perelman education. Turn out progressive minded lawyers on the taxpayers dime!!! Brilliant!!!

  2. Street Sweeper says:

    [LONG EDITOR'S NOTE:

    Since this is a ho-hum post anyway, let's note the rules here on the Leavenworth Street comment section again:

    1) Make a comment.
    2) Don't cut and paste someone else's comment.
    3) No links.

    I just deleted a "comment" that cut and pasted a poll that said:

    "74% OF NEBRASKA VOTERS SUPPORT A NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE IN DECEMBER 2008 POLL AND PREFER IT TO DISTRICT SYSTEM OR WINNER-TAKE-ALL",

    and then quoted all the rest of the poll.

    So here's the deal: If you have a point to make, make it. If you want to say, "there's a poll that says X, and here's why it's right (or wrong)", great.

    But just cutting and pasting ain't a comment, and isn't worthwhile.

    Make a LITTLE effort, please.

    And, just to state, once again for those who are new: No links, b/c I don't want to have to police every link by clicking it to make sure it isn't porn or some RickRoll or what-the-hell ever.

    I've been lax on this lately, but the hammer is comin' down in 2010, baby!

    And thanks for reading.

    -Ed.]

  3. Six (now Eight) Dollar Parker says:

    There was a time when Nebraska was at the forefront of American politics. It hasn't been for more than 40 years untill this last election. The split vote makes presidential politics important and relevant. It gets our voters excited and want to turn out. Iowa gets a lot of attentio, money spent and excitement in the primary. We get none. The split vote means we get candidates here in the fall. You think Sarah Palin or Barack Obama would have come here but for the 2nd CD being in play. and quess what? It didn't affect the outcome or other races(Lee Terry comes to mind). It was fun, the people were excited, attention was had, money was spent. We all felt like we were part of a national campaign again, both D's and R's. What's not to like about this system?

  4. Real Nebraskan says:

    Beau McCoy and other supporters of this "winner-take-all" bill simply need to say Nebraskans are tired of having their voice and political will diluted.

    It's the truth.

    Pass this bill!

  5. Klev Landsteamer says:

    What a great product of a Harvey Perelman education. Turn out progressive minded lawyers on the taxpayers dime!!! Brilliant!!!

    Jon Bruning graduated well before Perlman became Chancellor

  6. Anonymous says:

    Beau McCoy and other supporters of this "winner-take-all" bill simply need to say Nebraskans are tired of having their voice and political will diluted.

    And somehow it wouldn't "dilute" the "political will" of 2nd District voters by taking away their ability to determine the fate of one of our five electoral votes? Are Omaha and north Sarpy voters not "Nebraskan enough"?

    The Republican in me was obviously discouraged to see Obama win the 2nd. The fair minded loves-to-see-Nebraska-matter political junkie in me thinks we have an electoral allocation that should be the norm, rather than an odd exception.

    On balance, we should keep it the way it is. It's about as fair a method you can find between the extremes of pure winner-take-all and pure national popular vote.

  7. Nathan says:

    When the votes are separated like the current system I think its more reflective of the will of the voters. The majority of the voters in one electoral district (NE2) wanted someone for president, and the vote reflected that. However, the majority of the citizens of the great state of nebraska wanted someone else to be president, and the vote reflected that as well.

    I think this is mostly sour grapes by NE Repubs.

  8. Phil Montag says:

    After a generation of being ignored by Presidential campaigns, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Sarah Palin all came to Nebraska to campaign. Part of it was the new Democratic caucus, part of it was to fundraise, but the largest part of it was because CD2 (and some say CD1) were in play.

    This is a vote to make Nebraska irrelevant once again in Presidential elections and to let us be ignored by candidates from both parties for another generation.

  9. Blah Blah Blah says:

    I like the fact that Nebraska is different & "quirky" in how we vote for POTUS. I say keep it the way it is. And I'm a member of the GOP.

  10. Joseph says:

    The Governor would have a few things to say about King makers.
    1) Carlos. 2)Himself. 3)Johanns. The Gov. is no dummy, electoral votes are of little concern to pols. in the state. They matter to people like TPaw.

  11. Too Bad says:

    If all the states did it our way, I suppose the rampant gerrymandering of the past 10-20 years would make for some unpalatable consequences for the GOP as well as for the Democrats. But that's not the voters' fault. The way Nebraska does it seems more honest and fair. Leave it the way it is.

  12. Progressive BS says:

    BS if you are a member of the GOP and support splitting votes. It seems like Anonymous Democrats like to be Anonymous Republicans on this site

  13. Anonymous says:

    It would have diluted one person's influence over last years election. Suxie Buffett's million dollar purchase of one electoral vote for Obama would not have happened. I think if for nothing else it should be changed so that can't happen again.

  14. macdaddy says:

    If the splitting of our electoral college votes could lead to a tie between the candidates, then we should scrap it. If not, then I don't really care. I'm not bored enough to crunch the numbers. I think the biggest danger of doing things the way we do it is that other states will see all the money and attention being paid here and want in on the action, thus leading to a nightmare situation where candidates will have to compete in every district which means that the sums needed for an election will be tens of billions of dollars…each. Also, a la the CD2, the opportunity for chicanery by an individual or several people rises quite a bit. And people will want something for their money.

    I think there are more pressing issues facing our legislature, but as for the sour grapes charge, did you not read the post? Republicans have been trying to go back to the way things were for years, long before Obama fixed his first race.

  15. Blah Blah Blah says:

    Why can't a member of the GOP like how we do things now? I like the attention and money it brought into nebraska by having a different system than everyone else. What's wrong with that?

  16. Anonymous says:

    woo hooo!
    The fall of another Schimek piece of bs legislation. With the 2010 elections the GOP may just right the ship here.

    Go Beau Go.

  17. Uncle Wiggily says:

    Seems to me the status quo (electoral votes apportioned by legislative district) stands a bit closer to the founders notion of one man, one vote than does the winner-take-all philosophy, though, like many others, I'm not very exercised about it one way or the other. If the folks in Omaha … err, pardon me, CD2 … want to vote for Obama (or whoever) and actually have their vote count, then they should be able to do that. Let's not forget that even though the Constitution provides several protections for citizens and their respective unalienable rights, it does not shelter them from their own ignorance.

    I would much rather see Nebraska's legislative energies expended in cleaning up that part of state electoral law that discriminates profoundly against independent (non-Dem and non-Repub) candidates and voters. Check out Nebraska Revised Statute 32-312 where the voter registration process is defined. The anti-independent bias is a scandal. Also, the Nebraska State Constitution clearly states "All elections shall be free; and there shall be no hindrance or impediment to the right of a qualified voter to exercise the elective franchise." (Article I: CI-22)

    Finally, Google up the lawsuits currently filed against the Nebr SOS in the name of Sluti, and Bernbach, for a sample of how the same kind of discrimination on the part of the established power structure impacts the petition/initiative/referendum process.

    There are more important electoral fish to fry than whether or not Omaha, and maybe Lincoln, vote differently than those of us out here in the boonies.

    Sorry for the length of this, Sweeper … but you touched a raw spot.

  18. bob says:

    UW is right about Nebraska’s electoral vote divvy system being less consequential than other aspects of the warped way Nebraskans run government.

    While UW focuses on voter registration being unfair, I'd offer this perhaps more pointed point: Nebraska's Unicameral is UNAMERICAN, a slap in the face of our Founding Fathers, and a sure way to make bad law.

    The deepest and most fundamental structural truth within our national Constitution is this: An unbalanced legislature (one house) cannot produce good law.

    Nebraskans stupidly think a Governor's veto substitutes for the absence of a second house. Yet a veto only stops bad law. It has no ability to create good law.

    Our founders knew that a lawmaking body of power hungry individuals is never anything other than that. Without a similar opposing body also able to sculpt law, the one lone body necessarily swims in its own self interest and bad law is the result. Thus the only way to keep one house honest in the creative process of legislation is to give it a brother, hence a House and a Senate. That pits one rotten group of legislators against another rotten group of the same.

    Nebraskans think their legislators are more altruistic and selfless than normal human beings, which remind us of what UW said about our constitution not protecting Nebraskans against their own stupidity. Ain't that the truth!

    Our federal House and Senate today are producing bad law only because they are owned by those who also own the White House. Just imagine if Obama had a Democratic Unicameral. Laws would fly quicker into existence and they'd be even worse.

    When Nebraskans embrace their Unicameral, they essentially give the finger to our Constitution and Founding Fathers. That seems Un-American to me.

  19. Uncle Wiggily says:

    Bob:

    Your point regarding the ineffectiveness of the Unicameral is well taken, but I cannot escape the conclusion that its basic defect is not structural. I can find no persuasive evidence that bicameralism prevents the passing of "bad law". A quick glance at the law-making that has taken place in states like California, where legislative miscues have ranged from just silly to downright ruinous.

    Nebraskans were sold the one-house snake oil in the early part of the last century by none other than the prince of progessivism and our home-boy, George Norris. He hooked his wagon to the unicameral star early on, ostensibly in the name of economy, simplicity and "moving the making of law closer to the people", but a realistic view of history tends to support the notion that Norris simply saw it as a route to notoriety which he calculated (correctly, as it turned out) would lead to greatly expanded political horizons for him.

    No, I remain convinced that most legislative mischief, at both the state and national level, is directly attributable to the corrosive influence of rampant partisanship, which is itself intensified by a notable absence of any vestige of independent voice or agenda. It's ultimately all about the R's and D's … to hell with the public weal. Seeking artificial "balance" by playing off two equally pernicious houses against each other only serves to multiply the opportunities for abuse of the tax-paying, working, long-suffering citizenry.

    It's long past time for Nebraska to untrammel the will of the people by embracing the open primary model.

  20. Anonymous says:

    UW: Many of Californias bad laws are the result of their Propositions enacted by voters, not the legislators. Many of these propositions limit cuts in services while others limit tax increases. Therefore it leaves legislators between a rock & a hard place.

  21. Right Wing Professor says:

    UW:

    I don't understand your point. The legislature is formally non-partisan, and we have non-partisan primaries and elections — in effect, open primaries.

  22. Uncle Wiggily says:

    Prof:

    "we have non-partisan primaries and elections — in effect, open primaries." Err … not really. Section 32-312 of Nebraska Revised Statutes clearly states: If you wish to vote in both partisan and nonpartisan primary elections for state and local offices, you must indicate a political party affiliation on the registration application. If you register without a political party affiliation (nonpartisan), you will receive only the nonpartisan ballots for state and local offices at primary elections. If you register without a political party affiliation, you may vote in partisan primary elections for congressional offices.

    Ergo, as an Independent, I get to vote in the primary in such critical contests as Weed District Commissioner, Animal Control Officer, etc. (which are "non-political" offices), and in federal Congressional races, but I am precluded from making my wishes known in those elections involving state constitutional offices, for example. A half-loaf is not a whole loaf – vested politicians' assurances notwithstanding.

    Also – "The legislature is formally non-partisan". Maybe in theory, but de jure sure ain't de facto. All our legislature's phony "non-partisanship" claim does is drive the partisan bickering and deal-mongering off the floor and into the hallways and back rooms. R & D machinations are the grease in the Unicameral gearbox, and will ever be so.

  23. One Out In The Third says:

    Nebraska Independents should be given the right to vote in primaries. Who is so afraid?

    The Nebraska Democratic Caucus is also a fiasco that gives bullying pizzants like SEIU and party heads more influence…and leaves our military men and women overseas a one-shot marginalized voice in choosing whose name makes it onto Nebraska ballots…if they actually do get that one-shot chance.

    I chatted with and wrote Ben Nelson on the unfairness to our Nebraska troops overseas and he first was clueless if there was a plan to give our troops a voice in the caucus…and second he didn't appear to really care. I suppose he/they consider all military to be a vote against them.

  24. Right Wing Professor says:

    UW:

    The major part of your post was a complaint about the Unicam, which has non partisan primaries, in the rare instances where there are more than two people running. Sure, the constitutional offices have partisan primaries, but I don't really see why someone who isn't a Republican should get to choose the Republican candidate. If you object to the system, let's make the primaries completely non-partisan, not 'open'.

    It's been my observation that, by and large, the Dems treat the Unicam as partisan, while the Republicans don't. That's why the Dems get away with so much.

  25. Anonymous says:

    It's been my observation that, by and large, the Dems treat the Unicam as partisan, while the Republicans don't.

    Please tell me that was sarcasm, because if it's not, you're delusional.

    In a 1/25/2009 news article, Failson was asked about the party, the previous 2008 as well as future legislative races. He stated:

    "We won races we weren't supposed to win," Fahleson said. Thirty-two of the state's 49 senators are Republicans, although the body is officially nonpartisan.

    "There is no reason that all 49 legislative seats should not be held by a Republican," he said.

    You were saying, RWP?

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