A southeast Nebraska senator wants to move appointment of election commissioners to the county boards in three counties.

Short of that, he'd like any election commissioner appointed by a governor to be subject to approval by the Legislature.

Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber introduced two bills Monday. One of them (LB188) would require legislative approval of election commissioners appointed by the governor. The other (LB183) would take the appointment in the three largest counties out of the governor's hands and allow county commissioners to make the appointment.

In most counties, the county board appoints the election commissioner or the county clerk serves in that role.

"I still don't understand why the state would appoint a county official," Karpisek said Monday.

He said he first introduced the idea of appointment by county boards last year, before complaints were made in Omaha about Election Commissioner Dave Phipps, who was appointed by Gov. Dave Heineman.

Phipps had announced before the May primary election that Douglas County would shrink the number of polling places from 352 to 186. After an outcry, he eventually reopened 28 polling places before the general election.

Omaha Sen. Heath Mello said at a December interim hearing that election commissioners in Lancaster, Douglas and Sarpy counties were accountable only to the governor who appointed them.

Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh countered that charges of political skullduggery in Douglas County had no merit. Phipps had said the closings were to save money.

Adam Morfeld, Nebraskans for Civic Reform executive director, said appointments in the three counties historically were filled by partisan political campaign operatives.

"The time has come that we provide independent legislative oversight for officials that run elections in our largest counties," Morfeld said in the news release.

The closings in Douglas County, along with miscommunication and misinformation, and the unlawful denial of provisional ballots to voters illustrates the need for LB188, Morfeld said.

Karpisek said having the county board appoint election commissioners would be less political, in his opinion.

"I want to get back to local control and try to do away with partisanship as much as we can," he said.

Reach JoAnne Young at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com -- You can follow JoAnne's tweets at twitter.com/ljslegislature.