The New York Times ran a story on Sunday that Nebraska is considering a change to the state’s method of allocating electoral votes. Nebraska and Maine are the only two states that do not automatically award all of their electoral votes to the popular vote winner in the state. Nebraska awards two votes to the state winner, and the rest based on who carries each congressional district. While the state almost always votes for Republicans (LBJ was the last Democrat to win Nebraska), in 2008 President Obama won one electoral vote there by carrying one congressional district. Now some Nebraska Republicans want to snuff out that option.
Speaking as an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy (seriously, I can show you my certificate), I hope Nebraska does not make this change for partisan reasons. I’ve talked in other posts and in a draft article about the fact that there is a strong norm against partisan gamesmanship with respect to how states choose electoral votes. Even though this proposed change would affect only one electoral vote, the principle still applies that one party should not unilaterally change the rules for its benefit.
I can think of two possible counterarguments. One is that there is a difference between shifting to the rule that almost every other state has (winner-take-all) and going away from that rule. Maybe, but I’m not convinced. A stronger reply is that Nebraska has functioned as a winner-take-all state for decades. As far as I know, the state had never split its electoral votes until 2008. Perhaps many Nebraska voters did not realize they had the system they had and don’t like it now that they do know.