Trump wants to deny Biden's easiest reelection path by pushing a last-minute change in Nebraska's election law

Trump wants to deny Biden's easiest reelection path by pushing a last-minute change in Nebraska's election law
Former President Donald Trump wants to avoid the possibility that he could again lose an Electoral College in Nebraska.Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • Donald Trump threw his support behind a last-minute push to make it harder for Joe Biden to win.
  • He wants Nebraska Republicans to change the law so Biden can't win an Electoral College vote in the state.

Former President Donald Trump is backing a last-minute change to Nebraska's election law that could deprive President Joe Biden of an Electoral College vote that would loom large in a close race.

Trump praised Gov. Jim Pillen of Nebraska for throwing his support behind a bill that would end Nebraska's decadeslong practice of making it possible to earn some of the state's Electoral College votes by winning the popular vote in any of Nebraska's three congressional districts.

"A very smart letter from Governor Jim Pillen of Nebraska!" Trump wrote on Truth Social on Tuesday evening, attaching a copy of Pillen's statement.

Democrats have twice carried Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District, based in the Omaha metro area, most recently in 2020. The rest of the state is heavily conservative and has consistently handed its four other electoral votes to Republican nominees. The GOP has mostly managed to hang on to the district's congressional seat, with Rep. Don Bacon, a centrist Republican, winning his fourth term in 2022.

As Semafor first reported, Pillen was following up on Charlie Kirk's call for Nebraska lawmakers to push the legislation through before the current session ends. Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA, is a key Trump ally. In his statement, Pillen said he had supported the legislation "from the start."


"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," Pillen said.

Republicans could make Biden's reelection path more difficult if they successfully changed the law.

Biden's easiest line to a second term is to repeat his wins in the "blue wall" states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania and then carry the district in the Omaha metro area again. In that scenario, Trump could flip Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada and still fall short of the White House.

If Republicans changed Nebraska's laws, under the same scenario, the Electoral College vote would be 269-269, throwing the outcome of the presidency to the newly elected House of Representatives.

It's worth being skeptical that Republicans can push this through

Nebraska Republicans have gnashed their teeth over the law for years. They recognize that it's embarrassing for a heavily conservative state that hasn't had a Democratic governor in 24 years or a Democratic senator in a decade to hand over one of its Electoral College votes to a Democrat. After President Barack Obama narrowly won the 2nd Congressional District in 2008, multiple efforts were made to change the law. They failed.


Even the author of the current bill, state Sen. Loren Lippincott, has said it is unlikely Republicans will get their wish this year.

"In essence, for right now, it's probably stalled in committee," Lippincott told the Lincoln Journal Star, a local newspaper. "I don't like to report that, but that's the facts."

The current legislation to change the law was introduced in January 2023 and has largely languished since then. Nebraska's 60-day session is set to end in a matter of days.

Democrats in the state have also long blocked or significantly slowed down proposals in the officially nonpartisan unicameral via the filibuster. Just like in Congress, the Nebraska filibuster offers a powerful tool for the minority. In 2023, state Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh sustained the longest filibuster in state history in an effort to block a bill that would have banned gender-affirming care for minors. A version of the legislation that included a ban on most abortions after 12 weeks eventually became law, but the filibuster ground the Legislature to a near halt for weeks.

This story originally stated that Republicans were on paper just one vote shy of a filibuster-proof majority. On Wednesday afternoon, state Sen. Mike McDonnell, whom the state Democratic Party censured over his views on abortion and transgender rights, announced that he was formally joining the Republican Party.


McDonnell's change of heart is unlikely to affect the outcome of the legislation. While the unicameral has become more partisan in recent years, as state Sen. Megan Hunt pointed out the result of votes is often more complicated than simple ideological lines. Hunt chided national reporting, which she felt unfairly presented the unicameral's dynamics.

"The NE Legis has no party leadership, and my colleague Senator McDonnell will continue to vote the same way he always has. Functionally for us this changes nothing, just like when I registered independent," Hunt wrote on X, pointing to her own previous decision to formally leave the Democratic Party."

Trump wants to deny Biden's easiest reelection path by pushing a last-minute change in Nebraska's election law
Then-Nebraska Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster smiles during an event with former President Donald Trump ahead of the state's 2020 GOP primary.Getty Images

Pillen also has political incentives to show he's trying to change the law. A former member of the state board of regents, Pillen defeated Trump's preferred gubernatorial candidate, the businessman Charles Herbster, in a contentious 2022 Nebraska Republican primary. Pillen later appointed the then-newly former Gov. Pete Ricketts to the US Senate, a move that angered some Nebraska Republicans given that Ricketts had endorsed Pillen over Herbster. Pillen denied that anything nefarious had occurred over the appointment.

It's worth noting that Trump has benefited from Maine, the only other state to award some of its Electoral College votes under the congressional-district approach. The former president carried Maine's 2nd Congressional District in both 2016 and 2020.