More suburbs move to Omaha’s district

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May 24th, 2011

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Lincoln, NE – Last minute attempts to make wholesale changes in Nebraska’s congressional redistricting plans fell short, as the Legislature moved closer to ending its session early.

Minority Democrats in the officially nonpartisan Legislature took several last shots at changing the plan favored by the Republican majority. If the plan is ultimately challenged in court, one possible ground for a challenge is that it dilutes the influence of minorities in the Omaha-area second congressional district.

The plan puts more Republicans into the district, by incorporating the suburbs and rural areas of western Sarpy County into the Second District. At the same time it switches Bellevue and Offutt Air Force Base, with relatively more minorities and Democrats, to the First District. Omaha Senator Brenda Council, a Democrat, said that would dilute the influence of minorities, who in 2008 helped swing the Second District’s electoral vote to President Barack Obama.

Sen. Council says the proposed new districts will lessen the influence of minority voters. (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

“Minority voters in CD2 voted and turned out at unprecedented levels,” she said, “and not only as a result of their vote were they able to have an electoral vote cast for someone that they believed represented their interests and concerns as a minority community, they actually were able to affect the election of a minority presidential candidate.”

Omaha Senator Scott Lautenbaugh, a Republican, said there was a flaw in the Democrat’s legal argument.
“Here’s the problem people,” he said. “Under the case law, you don’t aggregate all minority populations to get to a minority-influence district. And that is what the proponents of this amendment are doing.”

In other words, Lautenbaugh said, you don’t add together African Americans and Hispanics and Asians and other minority groups to get to the roughly 30 percent level that the Supreme Court has said constitutes a “minority-influence” district.

Kearney Senator Galen Hadley said that even if minority groups were aggregated, their total in the Second District would still be about 25.5 percent in the Republican-favored redistricting plan, compared to 27 percent in the Democratic alternative. The amendment favored by Democrats was then voted down, 31-17.
The bill faces a final vote Thursday.

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