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Winner-take-all & Voter ID bills pushed in NE Unicameral

Posted at 6:31 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 20:16:37-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — This past election cycle, Nebraska’s second congressional district was close enough to draw former President Donald Trump to Omaha to campaign. It also brought now-First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff.

It’s because Nebraska is one of just two states to split up their electoral college votes, along with Maine.

Now, Senator Julie Slama, a Republican in the non-partisan legislature, wants to get rid of the old system and join the 48 other states with a winner-take-all system.

“The point of this bill is that every single voter in this bill has the same say, and that not we're not splitting up votes by congressional district to give more swing to some voters than others,” said Slama.

Slama said when the bill was passed three decades ago, many thought other states would join Nebraska, but didn’t.

She was joined by the executive director of the state Republican Party, Ryan Hamilton. Hamilton went as far as to call the current system a “voter inflation scheme.” He said the party has wanted to move on for decades.

“It’s been a long-standing priority for the party. My understanding is the reversal of this measure has been in our state party platform since the year it passed...1992,” said Hamilton.

Many opponents said they’re in favor of getting rid of the electoral college altogether but call Nebraska's system a good compromise.

“Nebraska and Maine have said at least we can make it a little bit better,” said Westin Miller, of Civic Nebraska.

Perhaps the most fervent opposition came from Omaha community activist Preston Love Jr.

“What are you fixing? It’s worked well,” he said.

Love said members of the Black community feel empowered that they have a say in the presidential race, and want to keep it that way.

“Doing that sends a very bad message to my community about how Nebraska feels about it,” said Love.

In the afternoon, Sen. Slama pushed her bill that requires Nebraskans to have an ID to vote.

It came with an additional amendment that requires the state to fund IDs for Nebraskans that cannot afford one and also provides some exceptions so some Nebraskans would not have to show an ID at all.

Secretary of State Bob Evnen supports the bill and the amendments.

“We have to have to make sure it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat,” he said.

Evnen, who ran in 2018 on a platform of implementing an ID law, said the state could ensure the 2% of Nebraskans that don't have an ID can get one.

Senator Megan Hunt of Omaha pushed back, saying there’s no voter fraud in Nebraska to necessitate this bill and it would create a network of bureaucracy for those looking for one.

“It’s going to be a nightmare for everybody. This is big government to me. This is more bureaucracy, this is not streamlined,” said Hunt.