The Nebraska Legislature will go into a special session starting on September 13th for the purposes of redistricting which is required by the Nebraska State Constitution every ten years. Redistricting is based on the U.S. Census data that was collected in 2020 to draw various election districts throughout the State based on population. Districts that are affected by redistricting include Congressional, State Legislative, Supreme Court, Public Service Commission, State Board of Education, and State Board of Regents. Redistricting is the sole responsibility of the state legislature and this past January a special committee of the Legislature was appointed to carry out the redistricting process.
The members of the Redistricting Committee include Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn (Chairperson); Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue; Sen. Tom Briese of Albion; Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon; Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln; Sen. Steve Lathrop of Ralston; Sen. John Lowe of Kearney; Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln; Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha. The full Legislature passed a resolution providing guidelines for the redistricting process. The Committee will analyze the 2020 census numbers, the current districts, and draft changes to district boundaries as needed. Once the Committee completes its work, it will present its plan to the full Legislature for debate and ultimate passage. After passage, the Governor will have the ability to sign or veto the redistricting plan with the Legislature having the ability to override the Governor’s veto should an override be necessary.
The impact that redistricting will have this year is on the boundaries of the various election districts because Nebraska will retain its three congressional districts and state law requires the same number of districts for various state offices under the purview of redistricting. As populations shift in various parts of the state, redistricting is important to ensure that districts within the same elective office are as close to equal in population as possible. “If a state legislative district has grown in population, that district might shrink in geographical area whereas a district that is losing population may grow in area,” said Brandon Luetkenhaus, chief advocacy officer at the Nebraska Credit Union League. “Often times we see rural area state legislative districts having to increase the area they cover to pick up the roughly thirty-five thousand voters they need while more urban districts shrink in area size or even move a legislative district to an urban area because the population has steadily grown,” he said. Sarpy County grew the most in the past ten years with a 20% increase in population followed by Douglas and Lancaster Counties which grew 13% each.
The special session is expected to last two or three weeks.