- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Lawmakers began debate Tuesday on a bill that would end Nebraska’s practice of splitting its electoral votes, more than five years after Barack Obama claimed one from Omaha on his way to the presidency.

The bill opened an immediate divide between Democrats and Republicans in the officially nonpartisan, one-house Legislature. Nebraska remains solidly Republican as a state, but has a larger concentration of Democrats in the Omaha and Lincoln areas.

Nebraska split its electoral votes for the first time in 2008, when Obama captured one from Nebraska’s 2nd District, which encompasses Omaha. The district went to Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, as did the rest of the state.

Sen. Charlie Janssen, of Fremont, said Nebraska’s decision to scrap the winner-take-all system in 1991 was based on promises that it would encourage more presidential candidates to visit Nebraska.

“What we have done is diminish our clout in a national election by potentially going from the ability to guarantee five electoral votes to a scenario where Nebraska might only offer four or even three,” said Janssen, a Republican candidate for governor.

The bill advanced out of committee last year on a 5-3, party-line vote.

Nebraska has five electoral votes. Two are awarded to the statewide winner in a presidential election, while three are split based on who won in each of Nebraska’s congressional districts.

Sen. Ernie Chambers, of Omaha, called the bill “strictly and purely partisan,” and promised an eight-hour filibuster - the maximum time allowed before supporters can try to force an end to the debate.

Supporters need at least 33 votes to force an end to a legislative filibuster. Republicans outnumber Democrats 30-18 in the officially nonpartisan Legislature. Chambers is an independent.

Lawmakers adjourned for the day without reaching a vote.

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The bill is LB382

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