- Associated Press - Saturday, February 22, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska lawmakers are considering changes to the state’s elections that supporters said would make the process more relevant.

Proposals include binding party delegates to the popular vote, moving up the date of the state’s primary election and changing how the state awards Electoral College votes.

Sen. John Murante, of Gretna, introduced the bill relating to party delegates. Now there is no requirement for who delegates vote for at a party’s national convention, but the bill would mandate that 80 percent of delegates vote for the candidate chosen by voters.

Murante said the change is needed because in a sense, the primary election is only an advisory vote.

“This bill is important because it gives power and meaning to the will of the people,” Murante said.

The bill was selected as one of two priority bills by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee. Priority bills are considered ahead of others during debate.

Murante has also expressed interest in moving Nebraska’s primary a month earlier during presidential election years, so voters wouldn’t cast ballots after the nomination had been largely decided. It wasn’t clear whether Murante would change the primary date during midterm election years.

Murante said he’s still considering the best way to proceed, but the committee could hold a public hearing on an amendment that would move the primary.

“Moving it up gives us at least the possibility of having our primary while the presidential election is still competitive,” he said.

Another bill would add Nebraska to the National Popular Vote compact, which would go into effect when it has adopted by enough states that have 270 electoral votes combined.

After that point, Nebraska’s Electoral College votes would be awarded to the candidate who receives the most votes nationally.

Sen. Tyson Larson, of O’Neill, prioritized the bill. The decision of choosing a president is one of the most important decisions Americans make, he said, and the decision should be made by everyone in the nation, not just a few swing states.

Sen. Bill Avery, of Lincoln, voted against advancing the bill from committee. Avery has concerns about a case where the state likely votes for the Republican candidate but the electoral votes would be awarded to the Democratic candidate.

“That’s breaking faith with our voters,” he said.

The change would be better than what is done now, Larson said. Larson said he doesn’t see the concerns as a downside.

“I see it as democracy in action,” Larson said.

Not all of lawmaker’s election-related proposals will become law.

Sen. Al Davis, of Hyannis, introduced a bill that would allow independent voters to participate in a Democratic or Republican primary.

The bill is still in committee and he doesn’t expect it to be voted to the full Legislature. Davis said he will probably reintroduce the bill next year.

Independents are a growing part of the electorate, representing about 19 percent of registered voters - an increase from about 6 percent in 1980, according to research done by the Legislative Research Office.

The bill could help increase turnout for local, nonpartisan elections, Davis said.

J.L. Spray, chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party, opposes the bill. The party wants to hold its primary with those who are committed to the party, he said.

A bill that would have changed the state’s Electoral College system to a winner-take-all system was abandoned earlier this month. Nebraska awards three of its five electoral votes based on voter outcome in each congressional district.


The bills are LB1048, LB773, LB1058 and LB382

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