Democrats remain hopeful despite odds in presidential election

Story and graphic by Matt Knudsen, NewsNetNebraska

It’s sort of a rough place for Democrats — Lincoln, Neb.

It has been 48 years since a Democrat has won the presidential election in Lincoln and its surrounding area’s congressional district.

A Democrat has not won the Electoral College vote for the First District in Nebraska since Lyndon B. Johnson did it in 1964. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is projected to win the district this year, as the Republican candidate has for the last 12 elections.

But, despite the odds, and the seemingly low chances, John Yoakum, chairman of the Lancaster County Democrats is not giving up.

“Democrats see the glass half full,” he said. “We still have hope.”

Nebraska and Maine are the only states that allow their Electoral College votes to be split.

And it was Barack Obama’s big win in Nebraska’s Second District in 2008 that keeps hope alive for Democrats.

“Because of that split, it’s worth our time to at least try and put up a fight,” Yoakum said.

Joan Dietrich, a data-analyst at the Nebraska Supreme Court and registered Democrat in Lincoln, feels the same way.

“I’m still going to vote. I’m still going to put a sign in my yard for Obama,” Dietrich said.

“Last year, Obama won the Omaha district (District 2) I don’t know if anyone really expected that,” Dietrich said.

Nebraska has used this vote splitting method since 1992; Maine has used it since 1972.

Before 2008, Maine and Nebraska had never split their electoral votes. With Obama’s win in Nebraska’s Second District that changed.

This map shows Nebraska's three congressional districts and how their electors voted in the 2008 election. Districts 1 and 3 voted to the Republican candidate John McCain while District 2 voted for Barack Obama, who became president.

What is the Electoral College?

The Electoral College consists of 538 electors who officially elect the president and vice-president of the U.S. The number 538 is derived by the number of members in the House of Representatives (435) and number of senators (100), plus three electors from the District of Columbia.

Nebraska has five electoral votes because it is represented by three House members and two senators, it has five electoral votes.

The electors who vote in the Electoral College are not the actual House or Senate members. In most cases, the electors are chosen at their state party’s convention, but is up to each state how they choose their electors.

When voting in the general election on Nov. 6, 2012 everyone’s votes will be added into their state’s total. In most states, the overall winner of the popular vote receives all the electoral votes for the state. For example, in 2008 in California, Barack Obama received 7.4 million votes while John McCain received 4.5 million. Because Obama won the popular vote, he received all 55 of California’s Electoral College votes.

But Nebraska allows its votes to be split.

So this means that instead of giving all five of its electoral votes to the statewide winner, the two state senator’s votes go to the overall state winner, while the other three votes are split based on the winner of each of Nebraska’s three congressional districts. In 2008, Barack Obama won District 2 in Nebraska, so he received one electoral vote from Nebraska with the other four going to the overall state winner John McCain.

A Lincoln area yard sign for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, the yard signs are beginning to pop up around Lincoln. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Everyone is still projecting that Mitt Romney will claim the First District’s electoral vote.

As the election nears, local Democrats are still not giving up.

“Until election day, we’re going to keep trying,” Yoakum said. “I always say, we can’t outspend the Republicans, but we can outwork them.”

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