Groups affiliated with the national tea party movement will begin circulating petitions this week calling for a constitutional amendment allowing Nebraskans to recall any elected official.
The proposed amendment is aimed at U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson but would apply to anyone elected by Nebraska voters, according to leaders of the groups sponsoring the petition.
Nelson's vote on health care reform made people look at the options voters have - or don't have - "when our representatives do not listen to us," said Judy Hoxworth with the Nebraska 912 Freedom Project, one of the sponsoring groups.
"We have none," she said.
"We are so greatly disappointed with Sen. Ben Nelson. You cannot believe the ire out here in Nebraska over his vote," she said.
Under state law, voters can recall only local elected officials. There is no recall provision for state officials, including the governor or state senators.
There also are no provisions in state law, federal law or the U.S. Constitution to allow recall of congressional elected leaders.
But 18 states do have recall provisions, Hoxworth said.
Leaders from the Nebraska 912 Freedom Project and the Western Nebraska Tea Party are listed as contacts on the petition effort filed with the Nebraska Secretary of State.
Petition leaders will need about 114,000 signatures of registered voters from at least 38 counties by early July to get the issue on the November statewide ballot.
Organizers expect to begin collecting signatures this week.
Simply collecting signatures will send a message to Nebraska's congressional delegation, said Jim Raymond with the Nebraska 912 group.
"If we are able to gather 200,000 signatures, he (Nelson) has to pay attention to that," Raymond said.
Nelson could not be reached to comment.
State provisions allowing a recall of U.S. senators or representatives will likely be tested in court. A move to recall U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez in New Jersey is facing a court challenge.
The Nebraska petition drive will use only volunteers, not paid circulators.
The last successful all-volunteer petition drive in Nebraska, in 2000, resulted in the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Language on the initiative petition signature sheets describes the goal of the proposed amendment: "This amendment would cause elected officials to be accountable to those voters should their actions, directly or indirectly negatively affect the state.
"This is a necessary step to protect the people of Nebraska from elected officials who do not act in the best interest of the state."
Most sponsors listed on the recall petition documents at the Secretary of State's office are from western Nebraska, but this should not be considered a western issue only, said Raymond.
Sponsors for the drive include Raymond and Hoxworth, both of Gering, representing the Nebraska 912 project, a group that provides educational information.
Representing the Western Nebraska Tea Party are Michael Krueger of Scottsbluff, Jim Farrenkopf of Scottsbluff, Brad Van Pelt of Scottsbluff, Kathleen Hanlon of Omaha and Katherine Wilmot of Beaver City.
Reach Nancy Hicks at 473-7250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.