Nebraska GOP official resigns after Trump allies’ failed push to change electoral rules

EXCLUSIVE — A Nebraska Republican Party official resigned over the weekend, days after the failure of a legislative effort to change Electoral College vote rules that helped President Joe Biden in 2020 and could again this year in one of the nation’s otherwise reddest states.

Doug Petersen stepped down as 2nd Congressional District chairman after heading the Republican operation in a Greater Omaha area district that has been at the center of an intraparty GOP political firestorm of late. Nebraska’s unicameral legislature, where Republicans hold a majority, on April 3 rejected a proposal to change how the state allocates its electoral votes in presidential elections, a move that would help former President Donald Trump if enacted.

Peterson expressed frustration with the Nebraska GOP as it fought over the electoral rule change and more broadly has been at war with itself over congressional endorsements. 

“On the advice of my legal counsel, I resigned from the CD 2 Chair on Saturday. I cannot comment on much other than the NEGOP is in shambles and I can no longer be associated with them,” Petersen, president at Omaha-based HR Systems Inc., said in an email to the Washington Examiner on Monday.

Nebraska is one of two states, alongside Maine, that allocates its electoral votes based on popular vote in each congressional district with two at-large electors who mirror the popular vote of the entire state. Some state GOP lawmakers, with the backing of Gov. Jim Pillen (R-NE), want the state to be a “winner-take-all,” meaning all five electoral votes would go to the overall winner of the state.

The matter has special resonance in the 2024 campaign, with polls showing a close fight between Biden and Trump. The president, in his 2020 victory, won 306 electoral votes to 232 for Trump. But population increases in red areas mean that since the 2020 census, some states Trump won last time around have more electoral votes. Either candidate needs a total of 270 to win the presidency.

The practical political outcome for Biden is that even if he won the three “Blue Wall” states Democrats recaptured from Trump in 2020 — Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — that would only amount to a 269-269 tie. The White House contest would then be thrown into the House of Representatives for a contingent election. Though it would be decided by members of the next Congress, elected in November, the House’s current GOP-leaning composition would mean almost certainly victory for Trump.

Nebraska’s 2nd District is an outlier in the otherwise strongly Republican state. Biden in 2020 beat Trump there 52.8% to 45.8%. While Nebraska as a whole favored Trump over Biden by about 59% to 39%. That marked the second time the district differed from the statewide vote since the electoral allocation system was changed ahead of the 1992 election. Barack Obama won the Omaha-area district in 2008 and its single electoral vote.

State Republicans have previously tried to change Nebraska’s electoral allocation system but haven’t had enough support. The issue received little attention until last week when pro-Trump personality Charlie Kirk raised the issue on his podcast.

Nebraska Republicans have been divided for much of this year. In January, the Nebraska Republican Party didn’t endorse any of the state’s five-member, all-GOP congressional delegation. One of the candidates they did endorse is Omaha businessman Dan Frei, who is running against 2nd District Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) in the May 14 primary. Bacon is a top target for Democrats in the fall, assuming he makes it to the general election. The 2nd District is among 18 held by a Republican that Biden would have won in 2020.


That move also contributed to the resignation from Petersen as chairman of the 2nd District GOP.

The state party “did endorse Don’s GOP competitor who has no chance at the primary in May and they have also not endorsed any of our current Federal incumbents; what’s that tell you?” Petersen wrote by email.

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