How One State Almost Threw the Presidential Election Into Chaos

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nebraska’s legislators voted down a bill on Wednesday that would have changed how the state allocates its Electoral College votes — a move that, if it had passed, could have thrown the 2024 presidential election into chaos. 

The bill, which failed to pass the state Legislature in a 8-36 vote, would have drastically altered the system for which the state doles out its five electoral votes, implementing a “winner-takes-all” system. Under Nebraska’s current system, which it’s used since 1996, three electoral votes go to the candidate who wins each of its three congressional districts — historically, Republicans win two of the three votes and the state’s 2nd Congressional District is fairly competitive. The other two electoral votes go to the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote. Nebraska is one of two states — the other being Maine — that still doles out their electoral votes by district. 

The bill — Legislative Bill 764 — was first introduced in the 2023 legislative session, but lingered in the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee without a vote before the session ended. It was revived at the beginning of 2024, but languished in the agenda until this week, when it popped back up in the news after conservative commentator Charlie Kirk described a scenario in which former President Donald Trump wins the 2024 election by one electoral vote if Nebraska switched to the “winner-takes-all” system. 

In the 2020 election, Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District provided President Joe Biden a key electoral vote in a red state in a close election. According to current polling projections, Biden and Trump are neck-and-neck in Electoral College votes and if Biden loses an electoral vote in Nebraska, it would mean he’d have to make it up in a different key swing state.

Within a few hours, Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen (R) put out a statement of support for the bill, saying that “it would bring Nebraska into line with 48 of our fellow states, better reflect the founders’ intent, and ensure our state speaks with one unified voice in presidential elections” and urging the Nebraska legislature to pass it and send it to his desk for signature. Trump then shared Pillen’s statement on his social media platform TruthSocial, putting more pressure on the Legislature to pass the bill.

One Nebraska lawmaker, Sen. Julie Slama (R), blamed the media frenzy caused by Kirk and Trump for the bill’s failure. “If you’re going to tweet out on an issue, if you’re gonna put out press releases on an issue and try to pressure the Legislature to do something, maybe when the concept actually comes up and people are voting on it, maybe you all should do the work,” she said according to NBC News.

Read the bill here.