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Redistricting reform ballot proposal appears to be shelved in Nebraska

Redistricting reform ballot proposal appears to be shelved in Nebraska

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Another big Nebraska general election ballot issue appears to have fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic.

Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to reform Nebraska's redistricting process are shelving a petition drive to place the issue on the November ballot, according to multiple sources. 

No decision has yet been announced.

The action follows on the heels of a similar decision that ended a petition drive to seek voter approval of a billion-dollar property tax reduction proposal.

Collection of sufficient signatures to place issues on the general election ballot has been crippled this year by the pandemic, its accompanying social distancing requirements and the cancellation of events where large crowds of people could be accessed.

Following completion of the 2020 federal census, the Legislature will tackle the always contentious issue of redistricting next year, drawing maps for congressional districts and determining the division of urban-rural power in the Legislature.

Supporters of the proposed redistricting issue had hoped to win voter approval in November to turn that redistricting task over to a newly created, nine-member citizens commission, which would recommend new district maps to the Legislature for its approval.

Although the Legislature is nonpartisan, redistricting every 10 years becomes a sharply partisan process, with a majority of senators who are Republicans shaping congressional districts in a manner that best protects or enhances GOP interests.

Legislative redistricting divides senators largely on a rural-urban basis.

A 2019 U.S. Supreme Court decision stated that partisan gerrymandering designed to benefit a political party or its candidates is not an issue to be resolved in the federal courts.

As for legislative redistricting, current population estimates and projections suggest that urban representation in the 49-member Legislature should climb by two senators — from 25 to 27 — as a result of anticipated 2020 census figures. But there are early signs that rural senators will attempt to limit that urban gain to a single seat.

The Lincoln-Omaha-Sarpy County metropolitan complex is expected to contain an estimated 56% of the state's population when redistricting occurs.

The initiative championed by Nebraskans for Independent Redistricting would have required a new citizens commission on redistricting to recommend new maps to the Legislature that create "contiguous districts as nearly equal in population as possible."

Those districts could not be drawn to purposely favor incumbents or to disadvantage voters because of their race or language.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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