Partisan accusations fly after redistricting plan proposed
May 5th, 2011
Lincoln, NE – The Legislature’s redistricting committee has proposed a plan for redrawing the state’s congressional districts, amid accusations of partisanship and promises of fights to come.
In the end, the vote on redrawing congressional districts broke down exactly according to the partisan affiliations of senators on the committee in the officially nonpartisan Legislature. The five Republicans voted for the plan, which the four Democrats opposed. The plan shifts eight counties in northeast and southeast Nebraska to the central and western Nebraska Third District, and two counties from the Third to the First, which still includes Lincoln. But by far the most controversial change involves adding western Sarpy County to the Omaha-area Second District, while switching the Bellevue and Offutt Airforce Base area to the First District. Senator Bill Avery, one of the minority Democrats on the committee, said that violates a principles the committee adopted.
“We had said in our resolution that we would try to keep existing district lines as intact as we could. And what we just did in that committee was to violate that principle,” said Avery. “That was wrong. And, it could be done because they have the votes. But we got rolled.”
Avery suggested Republicans on the committee were seeking partisan advantage by making the Second District, which has been the most competitive in the state, more Republican. But Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, the committee Republican whose map was adopted, suggested both parties might be guilty of partisanship.
“Apparently anytime the minority loses a vote, they got rolled in some way,” stated Lautenbaugh. “I mean we had a vote, it came out the way it did… Partisanship is a two-way street. All the republicans voted one way, all the Democrats voted another way. Which group is being partisan? Or is everyone being partisan at this point?”
Whatever the motivation, the direction of the proposed change seems clear. According to NET News’ rough calculation, the Democrats currently have a voter registration edge of about one thousand voters in the Second Congressional District. If the committee plan is adopted, that would change to a Republican edge of about 10 thousand. The committee has previously adopted a plan for redrawing legislative districts. A fight on that plan is expected to occur over which western Nebraska district gets shifted east to reflect population shifts. The committee will hold public hearings on its redistricting plans next Friday, the 13th.