Click here to view The World-Herald's 2012 Election Guide.
The college without a football team, a marching band or a campus stands poised for more controversy.
If Tuesday's presidential election results in another split outcome — one party's candidate winning the popular vote and the other winning the election, as happened in 2000 — many will cry out anew for reform or abolition of the Electoral College.
Even if the vote doesn't split that way, polls show that many people disagree with the winner-take-all method for electoral votes that is used in most states.
For one thing, it means that candidates pay little attention to more than four-fifths of the states, which are considered safe wins for one party or the other, and instead focus on nine battleground states.
For several years, a drive under way has pushed to elect the president by a national popular vote. Critics, though, contend that a close election under that method would be a nightmare, with recounts in every hamlet and lots of lawsuits.
So why don't more states adopt the Maine-Nebraska method — allocating electoral votes in part by the results in each congressional district rather than the statewide vote?
“Realistically,” said former State Sen. Dianna Schimek of Lincoln, “it would be better if we didn't have the Electoral College. But we're never going to do away with that. So I think the law we have would probably be the best system for everybody — it gives everybody a feeling that their vote counts at the grass-roots level.”
Schimek authored the 1991 legislation that allowed Nebraska to divvy up electoral votes by district. Maine has had such a law since 1972.
“I thought other states would think it was a good idea, too,” Schimek said. “It has been proposed in some but didn't pass. Part of that is because some of the bigger states don't want to give up their electoral strength.”
As usual in politics, the possibility for change depends on whose ox is being gored. In 2000, it was the Democrats and Al Gore, who won the popular vote by more than a half-million but lost the electoral vote to George W. Bush.
This time, some pundits believe, the opposite could happen. Republican Mitt Romney could receive the most popular votes and Democrat Barack Obama could win the electoral vote.
“It could be that Romney loses but wins the popular vote,” said Randall Adkins, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “I'm not a proponent of a national popular vote, but I'm not opposed to reforming the Electoral College.”
The Electoral College is “a fact of life,” he said, but added that Congress should seriously discuss changes.
In Maine and Nebraska, two electoral votes go to the statewide winner and the others are won by congressional district. Though Maine hasn't split off an electoral vote different from the statewide winner, that's exactly what happened in 2008 in Nebraska — Obama won the electoral vote in the Omaha-based 2nd District.
Nate Silver, who runs the New York Times' “538” blog that monitors scientific polls leading up to the presidential election, said Obama's “most impressive victory” in 2008 may have been plucking that electoral vote from red-state Nebraska.
That one vote didn't make a difference in 2008, and Silver says it's a 1,000-to-1 shot that a single vote in Nebraska or Maine could decide the 2012 election.
Still, the Nebraska and Maine laws at least give voters a feeling that their ballots are in play, which is not the case in most states.
Adkins said it's unlikely that a lot of states will adopt the Maine-Nebraska method.
California, for example, is a lock for Democrats in presidential elections, and the state legislature is controlled by Democrats — who wouldn't want to give up some of the state's electoral votes to Republicans. And Texas, controlled by Republicans, wouldn't want to give up electoral votes to Democrats.
In any case, he said, wide use of the Maine-Nebraska method probably would result in presidential candidates focusing on “battleground districts,” because most congressional districts lean to one party or the other.
Other possibilities for change have been raised. One is a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College, which Adkins said would be extremely difficult because it would require approval by three-fourths of the states.
Another is proportional representation, in which a state's electoral votes would relate to the approximate percentage of ballots cast for each candidate.
And the National Popular Vote Initiative proposes a compact among states that would agree that all of their electoral votes would go to the winner of the national popular vote. Critics have called that “an end run around the Constitution,” though proponents note that an end run is legal in football.
Political footballs, meanwhile, are being tossed by the minute, and most voters can't wait for the election and the end to all the negative TV commercials.
Though a Gallup Poll showed that only 35 percent of Americans wanted to keep the Electoral College, it has its ardent supporters who say it helps protect the interests of small-population states.
On this final weekend of a long campaign, the hard-working candidates and their surrogates are giving it the old college try, but are narrowly focused on a few states, especially Ohio.
However the election turns out Tuesday, the Electoral College may be the cause of a lot of arguments.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1132, email@example.com