Nebraska lawmakers will get the chance to reform how political boundaries are drawn in the state this year before embarking on the redistricting process in 2021.
The Legislature's Executive Board moved Omaha Sen. John McCollister's redistricting reform bill (LB1207) to the floor for full debate on a 5-4 vote. No amendments were proposed.
Voting in favor to move the legislation were McCollister and fellow Omaha Sens. Ernie Chambers and Tony Vargas, Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz and Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward.
Opposing the bill were Speaker Jim Scheer, Lincoln Sen. Mike Hilgers, and Sens. John Lowe of Kearney and Dan Hughes of Venango.
McCollister's proposal keeps the Legislature's nine-member Redistricting Committee in place, but would require the chair and vice chair receive the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of the committee members.
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The committee could also include no more than five members from a single political party, and no more than four from a second party.
Its membership would also need to be equally distributed across Nebraska's three congressional districts.
When the Legislature receives the latest Census data next year, new political boundaries would be drawn without consideration of political affiliation or voting history of the residents or registered voters living in an area.
The committee would also be barred from considering demographic information beyond population numbers.
The maps created by the Redistricting Committee would be presented at three public meetings, one in each congressional district, and the full Legislature could only start debate on the proposal 14 days following the last public hearing.
The overall aim would be to reduce the partisanship that goes into the redistricting process, McCollister said, in an effort to redistrict partisan gerrymandering — an issue the U.S. Supreme Court said last year is a political question and not a question for the federal courts to weigh in on.
The Executive Board's action comes as several organizations announced a ballot measure to create an independent citizens' commission responsible for conducting the redistricting process next year.
Nebraskans for Independent Redistricting filed the requisite paperwork with the state to begin a petition drive Thursday and is expected to begin collecting signatures this month.
McCollister last year introduced a bill to create an independent redistricting commission, but it stalled before the Executive Board.