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Rule to eliminate secret ballot fails to advance

2014-01-10T15:15:00Z 2014-01-10T21:16:12Z Rule to eliminate secret ballot fails to advanceBy JoANNE YOUNG / Lincoln Journal Star

In government and politics, when is a secret ballot justified?

Three members of the Nebraska Legislature's Rules Committee said it's the right thing to do when electing committee chairs to keep party politics out of the nonpartisan, one-house Legislature.

The committee on Friday addressed seven changes in how senators conduct business, forwarding four on for debate and votes.

One proposal to elect chairs and vice chairs with an open, recorded vote rather than secret ballot was killed outright.

Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft proposed the change, saying transparency is best.

Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop followed with the kill motion.

"I think it unnecessarily facilitates the introduction of partisan politics into the process of choosing chairpersons," he said.

Lathrop said he knew people from both parties who would like to know who voted for whom so they could bring consequences to senators who didn't vote for people in their party.

He may have been reflecting on a letter sent out before the 2013 session by state Republican Party Chairman Mark Fahleson, who in his "Chairman's Report" expressed concern that some state lawmakers would “secretly vote for Democrats for committee chairmanships -- Democrats who at the end of the day want to destroy (Republican) Gov. Dave Heineman's agenda of a smaller, more efficient state government.”

Brasch argued that constituents want to know how senators voted. She also said electing chairs by open ballot would improve collegiality.

"I think we just put it out there and it's simple and not confusing," she said.

Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton said she didn't see any confusion in the way the secret vote is taken. With an open vote, senators could take individual votes personally and it would undermine collegiality, she said.

A motion to kill the proposal passed on a 3-2 vote, with Lathrop, Dubas and Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus voting yes and Brasch and Rules Committee Chairman Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha voting no.

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