LINCOLN | A state senator wants Nebraska to join a movement to elect the president of the United States by popular vote instead of using the current system of tallying electoral votes.
Sen. John Murante of Gretna introduced the idea (LB1058) Wednesday to the Legislature's Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. Murante and the group National Popular Vote point out that in the 2012 presidential race, the candidates spent their time in states with large numbers of electoral votes to offer.
President Barack Obama campaigned in just eight states after securing the Democratic nomination. Republican Gov. Mitt Romney did so in only 10 states.
"I think there is one thing that most of us could agree upon: the system by which we as a nation choose our president is broken, not just for us but for the entire country," Murante said. "Far too much attention is placed upon the so-called 'Battleground States,' allowing those few states to wield substantial political power. This in turn has significant policy implications, as both political parties seek to curry favor with the narrow interests of Battleground State voters while the interests of Nebraskans and voters in other non-Battleground States are too often ignored."
The Electoral College system gives each state the same number of votes as the number of its congressional delegation, which is partly based on population; each state has two senators, but the number of U.S. House members is determined by population. That means that Nebraska, for example, has just five electoral votes and is largely ignored by presidential candidates, while more-populous Ohio, for example, has 18.
It takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.
The National Popular Vote movement creates a voluntary compact between any combination of states that collectively total at least 270 electoral votes. States enter the compact by passing a law, and the compact is triggered only when enough states have joined the agreement to total 270 electoral votes.
Such laws have been adopted in 10 states possessing 136 electoral votes.
The compact is based on Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives each state legislature the right to decide how to appoint its own electors. States have chosen various methods of allocation over the years, with regular changes in the nation's early decades. Today, all but two states -- Maine and Nebraska -- award all their electoral votes to the candidate with the most popular votes statewide.
According to the U.S. Electoral College, the system was established by the founding fathers as a compromise between election of the president by Congress and election by popular vote. States use various methods to select their electors. In Nebraska, they are selected by the political parties.
The Electoral College allows a candidate to become president while losing the popular vote, which happened four times, most recently in 2000 when Democrat Al Gore lost the election to Republican George W. Bush despite getting more votes.
In Florida, Bush got just 537 more votes than Gore, but Gore had a nationwide lead of 543,895 popular votes. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling stopped all recounts in Florida, and under the winner-take-all rule in effect in Florida, Bush was entitled to all of Florida's 25 electoral votes and the presidency.
"The people of this country aim to elect the president of the United States, not the president of the targeted states," said Laura Brod, of National Popular Vote. "The National Popular Vote bill agreement among the states will guarantee the presidency to the candidate who wins the most votes in all 50 states."
"The shortcomings of our current system stem from the state-by-state winner-take-all state laws in which a state awards all of its electors to the candidate who wins that state."