Nebraska should go back to winner-take-all

Friday, February 23, 2007

It's a law that sets Nebraska apart, but hasn't made any real difference -- yet.

It's also one the minority political party likes, and has kept in place, thanks to then-Gov. Ben Nelson, who, by the way, is a member of that party.

But Dave Heineman, a Republican, is in power now, and the officially nonpartisan Unicameral is mostly Republican, as well.

Put into place in 1991, the law awards three of the state's electoral votes based on the tallies in each of the three congressional districts.

The other two are winner take all, like most other states.

Only Maine has a system like Nebraska's.

Proponents of the system, most of them Democrats, say the move is a power grab, and counteracts, somewhat, flaws in the national system that allow candidates to lose the popular vote, yet win the election by taking more electoral votes.

Republicans, however, say the system didn't live up to its promises, and even dilutes the influence Nebraska can have on national elections.

As a practical matter, the issue is moot, since electoral votes have always gone to the same candidates in the congressional districts as in the statewide races.

If Nebraska wants to have influence, however, lumping our five votes together in a winner-take-all block makes us a more attractive political prize.

And, especially if the Legislature passes another bill to dump the presidential primary in favor of earlier caucuses on par with those in Iowa and New Hampshire, this year would be a good year to change the system.

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