Nebraska
Congressional BoundariesDrawn by legislature
State BoundariesDrawn by legislature
Governor's PartyRepublican
Legislative PartyRepublican

Census-related Redistricting Timeline Delays

Congressional

Alert:
Guarded

State Legislative

Alert:
Guarded

Process

State Legislature

Nebraska has a one-chamber Legislature that is nominally nonpartisan but functionally Republican. Its state legislative and congressional districts are drawn by the Legislature by ordinary statute, and are subject to the Governor's veto. The Legislature can override vetoes with a three-fifths vote. Notably, Nebraska allows for legislative filibusters, meaning an end to debate requires a two-thirds majority, which the Republicans do not have.

Criteria

In addition to the federal requirements of one person, one vote and the Voting Rights Act, Nebraska’s state constitution (Art. III § 5) requires that state legislative and congressional districts be compact, contiguous, and avoid county splits. In the last redistricting cycle, the Redistricting Committee adopted a legislative resolution with additional guidelines to preserve the cores of prior districts, prohibit the use of partisan data, and forbid the intentional favoring or disfavoring of a party, group, or person. 

Public Input

Per current legislative rules (Rules of the Neb. Unicameral Legis., Rule 3, § 6), the Redistricting Committee must make redistricting data and draft plans available to the public, as well as hold at least one public hearing in every congressional district. In 2011, the Committee held at least two public hearings on May 13. It is likely that a similar public input schedule will occur in 2021.

Issues

Potential Reform

Nebraska has a ballot initiative process, and in March 2020, Nebraskans for Independent Redistricting filed a ballot initiative to create a redistricting commission to redraw the state's legislative and congressional lines. However, as a result of the current public health crisis, supporters shelved the petition drive and failed to collect the necessary signatures before the July 2, 2020 deadline. Even though the measure did not pass in time for the 2021 redistricting cycle, it can serve as a template for future reform efforts.

  • First, a nine-member screening committee of legislators along a 5-4 partisan split would select a nine-member Commission on Redistricting. The committee would randomly select two qualified commissioners per subpool (majority party, minority party, and unaffiliated with either) and directly vote on a third in each. Any official action of the Commission would require a six-vote majority, including two commissioners from each partisan category. Once approved, maps would be sent to the Legislature, who cannot redraw them. Instead, rejected maps are sent back to the Commission with feedback, and the Commission must resubmit new maps.
  • The new initiative would codify and rank Nebraska's current criteria. The first three requirements are standard: districts would have to comply with federal law, be contiguous, and be "as nearly equal in population as possible." Fourth, the initiative would create state-level protection for minority communities, prohibiting districts that "deny or abridge the right to vote on the basis of race or language." Finally, the initiative would require minimizing splitting of existing political boundaries. Outside of this ranking, districts would be prohibited from intentionally favoring an incumbent or party, and "considering the political affiliation of voters or previous voting data."
  • All legislative proceedings, screening committee meetings, and commission meetings would be "conducted exclusively in public." The Commission would be required to hold at least one public hearing in each of Nebraska's three congressional districts prior to recommending maps to the state Legislature. Proposed maps with written explanations and "other data being considered" would also have to be readily available to the public for at least seven days before the first public hearing.

The Legislature also introduced one redistricting reform bill, LB253, which would have adopted a more comprehensive list of redistricting criteria, including Voting Rights Act-type language and specific prohibitions of partisan gerrymandering, as well as create an independent advisory commission to help the Legislature in drawing plans. The bill adjourned sine die.

Actions

Take Common Causes’s End Gerrymandering Pledge and join Nebraskans for Independent Redistricting’s campaign to end gerrymandering.

In 2021, participate in the Legislature’s public input process.

  • Obtain Nebraska redistricting data from OpenPrecincts.
  • Start to plan out what defines your community – whether it’s a shared economic interest, school districts, or other social or other cultural, historical, or economic interests – and how that can be represented on a map. This will come in handy once the Legislature starts collecting feedback.
  • Use software tools such as Dave's Redistricting App and Districtr to draw district maps showing either (a) what a fair map would look like, or (b) where the community you believe should be better represented is located.

Read the Common Cause Activist Handbook on Redistricting Reform to learn about what reforms have been successful in the past, and what steps to take to enact reform in the future.

Contacts

Nebraskans for Independent Redistricting

Common Cause Nebraska

Civic Nebraska

Sources

All About Redistricting

NCSL

Ballotpedia