Redistricting Committee Begins Looking at Maps

Sept. 7, 2021, midnight ·

Redistricting Committee
Nebraska Legislature's Redistricting Committee in briefing Tuesday (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

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The Nebraska Legislature’s redistricting committee began looking at proposed maps for redrawing the state’s political boundaries today/Tuesday. But senators didn’t get into discussing congressional and legislative districts, which are expected to be the most controversial decisions.

The committee’s goal is to propose maps by Friday for six sets of offices: the state Supreme Court and Board of Education, University of Nebraska Board of Regents, Public Service Commission, the Legislature, and Congress.

So far, maps have been proposed for the Supreme Court and Public Service Commission, adjusting boundaries to fit with the state’s shifting population. No votes have been taken. The committee voted unanimously against going behind closed doors into executive session Tuesday, but that question is expected to come up again when the more controversial topics are reached.

Before the committee met, it held a briefing on the process for other senators, who can also propose their own maps. During that meeting, Sen. Mike Moser of Columbus, a registered Republican in the officially nonpartisan Legislature, asked if the software being used incorporates any artificial intelligence that could benefit a certain party. Sen. Justin Wayne, the Democratic vice chair of the committee, said it does not.

“It’s just an administrative tool and you draw the districts how you want. You can go block by block. You can go county by county. But you as a senator or staff physically draw the districts how you want,” Wayne said.

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, the Republican chair of the committee, tailored an example specific to Moser’s Columbus-based district.

“You, Sen. Moser, are in Platte County, and Platte County is not quite big enough to be a district. So you would go, Platte County, and then you would zoom out and say – I don’t know, I’m guessing – I need 2,000 people. And then you could go up and start grabbing census blocks until you get to 2,000,” Linehan said.

Critics of having the Legislature draw redistricting lines, insead of an independent commission, complain that it enables candidates to pick their voters, instead of voters picking their candidates.

The committee resumes work Wednesday, with legislative and congressional maps expected to be introduced. The full Legislature begins meeting in special session next Monday.