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Coalition moves to end partisan gerrymandering in Nebraska

Nebraskans for Independent Redistricting, a nonpartisan coalition of Nebraska nonprofit organizations, on March 5 introduced a ballot initiative that would prohibit the manipulation of voting districts – a process known as gerrymandering.

If qualified and passed by voters in November, the proposal would create an independent Citizens Commission to oversee the constitutionally mandated redrawing of Nebraska’s congressional and state legislative districts.

DiAnna Schimek (right) introduces the ballot initiative. (Courtesy ACLU of Nebraska)

“Our political system isn’t as fair as it should be because of gerrymandering,” said former State Sen. DiAnna Schimek, one of three campaign co-chairs. “Nebraskans want a system that everyone trusts, which gives the people ownership. This is a common-sense solution that prevents elected officials from being able to redraw legislative districts for partisan or political interests. It adds transparency and makes our government more accountable to the people of Nebraska.”

Joining Schimek as campaign co-chairs are former State Sen. Marian Price and Carol Russell, a longtime Omaha volunteer and community leader. Partnering organizations supporting the measure include the ACLU of Nebraska, Civic Nebraska, Common Cause Nebraska, the Holland Children’s Movement and Nebraska Appleseed

“In a healthy democracy, voters choose their leaders and not the other way around. Fair redistricting is crucial to protecting and advancing Nebraskans’ voting rights,” said John Cartier, Civic Nebraska’s director of voting rights. “We support this initiative to ensure an impartial and transparent process.”

This morning, representatives of Nebraskans for Independent Redistricting delivered language to the Secretary of State’s office, initiating the process to begin a petition drive. Signature gathering is expected to begin later this month.

The proposed measure includes the following provisions: 

  • Establishes a nine-member independent citizens commission to determine district lines for the U.S. House of Representatives and the Nebraska Legislature.
  • Requires commission meetings will be held exclusively in public and requires open sharing of maps and data being considered by the commission.
  • Prohibits lobbyists, elected officials, party leaders, current and former political candidates from serving on the commission, as well as their immediate family. 

growing number of states from across the political spectrum are adopting redistricting commissions to strengthen community input, increase transparency and prevent partisan gerrymandering. It’s time for Nebraska to do the same.

Without this amendment, Nebraska will spend another 10 years with voting district lines that can be manipulated by sitting legislators for their own benefit. The time is now to ensure that voting lines are drawn in an impartial and fully transparent manner.

For more information, visit http://nebraskansforindependentredistricting.org.