Redrawn legislative boundaries draw interest from east to west

2011-05-13T19:00:00Z 2013-03-26T21:33:19Z Redrawn legislative boundaries draw interest from east to westBy JoANNE YOUNG / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

There was no doubt Friday, by the end of hearings held in multiple locations around the state, how Alliance residents felt about the legislative redistricting plan.

The plan that would split the town along Nebraska 2 between legislative districts 43 and 47 wasn't well received.

Alliance has worked 40 years to unite its community, because historically, Nebraska 2 has been the division between "the haves and the have nots," said resident Richard Schommer.

"It's a constant struggle in Alliance to try and eliminate that imaginary dividing line that separates one group of citizens from another," he said.

This single proposal has divided them again, and the Legislature will undo 40 years of progress in the community if it sanctions a proposal that further alienates a segment of voters, he said.

A number of Latino residents of south Omaha also spoke to the committee on what had at one time been an option to redraw boundaries to make one of the south Omaha districts a majority-minority district for Latinos.

Jonathan Benjamin Alverado, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said there will be an increasing Latino population in both District 5 and District 7 in the next 10 years.

Impermissably "packing" one district to create a majority-minority district is a false choice, he said, and would dilute Latino voting strength in District 5, now served by Sen. Heath Mello.

Another testifier on the issue, Jose Francisco Garcia, said the 2010 census was a watershed event for the Spanish surname electorate, and the political elite already have begun heavily courting the 2012 Latino vote.

Although political representation of people with Hispanic surnames remains unfulfilled, that hope does not lie in redrawing of district lines, he said.

There were some tense moments in the day-long testimony that included Lincoln, and eight other communities via teleconference, and strained discussions on the role of partisan politics in drawing the congressional district maps.

Charlene Ligon, of eastern Sarpy County, came to Lincoln to tell senators that carving out Bellevue and Offutt Air Force Base and moving them from Lee Terry's Congressional District 2 to Jeff Fortenberry's 1st District was wrong.

After Ligon had testified for a while, and decried partisan politics having a role in the boundary changes, Redistricting Committee member Scott Lautenbaugh took her to task for not stating that she was a volunteer executive with the Sarpy County Democratic Party.

His questioning of Ligon, and pointing out that a number of other testifiers who had done the same also were officers in the Democratic Party, drew a response from Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad.

She apologized on his behalf for the assumptions and accusations in his questioning, saying she had never seen a sitting senator do research during testimony on the positions or volunteer affiliations of a testifier.

"I wonder what kind of a police state we're creating" in which there is some sort of requirement for declaration of those volunteer affiliations before a person can testify, she said.

Lautenbaugh later said he wasn't going to apologize for trying to give the public that information. If the chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party had shown up to testify, and not identified himself as such, Conrad would have pointed it out immediately, he said.

The committee agreed to delay a vote on the legislative and congressional proposals, and Sen. Deb Fischer said she would work on possible changes to the Alliance issue.

The committee adopted proposals on State Board of Education, Board of Regents and Public Service Commission redistricting maps.

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

 

Copyright 2015 JournalStar.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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