Nebraska lawmakers gearing up for redistricting session

Photo: Nebraska Legislature

(Lincoln, NE) -- Nebraska lawmakers went back to work yesterday for a special session tackling redistricting.

The officially nonpartisan legislature is tasked with redrawing congressional and legislative lines every 10 years. But this time around, some senators worry the effort is too partisan.

"Ten years ago, it was somewhat partisan, with the congressional boundary change in Bellevue. But in 2001 and earlier redistricting efforts, it wasn't nearly so partisan at it seems to be this year," said State Sen. John McCollister (R-Omaha).

Typically, the committee proposes just one plan for the officially nonpartisan legislature to consider. But so far, committee members have been unable to reach a compromise.

The key issue dividing Republicans and Democrats is whether or not to split Douglas County into two separate congressional seats. The proposal put forward by committee chair Lou Ann Linehan (R-Elkhorn) would place northern Douglas County and Lincoln in the first district, while placing southern Douglas County and all of Sarpy and Saunders counties in the second district.

Conversely, the plan put forward by committee vice chair Justin Wayne (D-Omaha) would keep all of Douglas County in the second district, along with parts of Bellevue and Offutt Air Force Base.

Citizens will have an opportunity to testify and voice their thoughts on redistricting at the upcoming public hearings. Senators are optimistic that the hearings will help facilitate a compromise before the September 30 deadline. "I really feel that after the hearings, we'll be able to take a little bit from Map A and a little bit from Map B and come up with Map C," said State Sen. Carol Blood (D-Bellevue), who serves on the committee tasked with presenting a final map to the full legislature.

The process holds some national significance, given Nebraska's system for assigning electoral votes. Each congressional district gets one vote, which allowed Democratic presidential candidates to win an electoral vote from the second district in 2008 and 2020.

The next hearing will be on Wednesday, September 14th, in Lincoln. There will also be one on Thursday, September 15th, in Omaha. More information on the hearings and the two proposed plans is available here.

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