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Nebraska splits electoral votes for 2nd time in history

December 14, 2020 GMT

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska officially split its Electoral College votes for the 2nd time in history on Monday, awarding one of its five votes to President-elect Joe Biden and the remaining four to President Donald Trump.

Biden won the popular vote in the Omaha area’s 2nd Congressional District, a feat last achieved by Barack Obama during his first presidential run in 2008.

The vote in a half-full state Capitol hearing room drew cheers from audience members when elector Precious McKesson, a Democratic Party activist, cast her votes for Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. The vote went largely as planned, with no one contesting the state’s results.

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Republicans consistently dominate in Nebraska’s statewide races and rural congressional districts, but Democrats have shown they can compete in Lincoln and parts of Omaha.

McKesson said Biden’s win in the 2nd District shows that Democrats can still prevail in some Nebraska races, but she added: “We still have a lot of work to do.”

Nebraska and Maine are the only two states where it’s possible to divide its votes among presidential candidates. In Nebraska, two are awarded based on the winner of the statewide popular vote while the other three are allocated to the victor in each congressional district.

Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb said the Biden-Harris ticket claimed the 2nd District in part because they appealed to moderate and conservative voters as well as progressives.

“They made sure there is space for all Democrats, and they really spoke to issues across ideology, and I think that’s exactly how they’re going to govern,” she said.

Kleeb also credited the Biden campaign for working closely with local and state party officials who know the political landscape.

Republicans in the officially nonpartisan Legislature will likely try to eliminate Nebraska’s Electoral College system next year, bringing back the winner-take-all approach of most other states. They face an uphill battle, however, because Democrats in the minority have enough votes to block such a move with a filibuster.

Lawmakers will also redraw Nebraska’s political boundaries in 2021 as part of their once-a-decade redistricting ritual, which could reshape the 2nd District to make it less friendly to Democrats — although Democrats may be able to block those efforts as well.

Republican elector Steve Nelson, a farmer from Axtell, said Nebraska’s unusual split reflected both the level of interest in the 2020 election and the growing political power of Omaha. He said he respected the Nebraska vote, but questioned whether other states should review their voting practices. Trump has made numerous unfounded, inaccurate claims about the election in an effort to undermine Biden’s win.

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“I think it’s reasonable to expect that we should look into some of the questions raised around the country to find out if those were legitimate concerns or not,” Nelson said after casting his at-large vote for Trump.

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Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte