From protest, to the polls, to policy. Next up: we must protect our political power.
Redistricting is about protecting your vote, your political power, your family and your community. Don't be turned off by bureaucratic or political jargon surrounding redistricting. Get engaged and hold our elected officials accountable because voters should choose their politicians, not the other way around.
So what is it all about? In every state, once a decade, states use Census numbers to draw new state and congressional district maps in a process called redistricting. The idea is to rebalance districts to reflect population changes, getting as close to one person, one vote as possible.
Fair and equal representation is the cornerstone of American democracy. That’s why we’ll be demanding fair maps that honor our communities, our democracy and Nebraska’s unique nonpartisan political tradition.
Jump to Section:
WHY REDISTRICTING MATTERS
Redistricting impacts your voting rights. It impacts racial justice. It impacts key decisions in areas like criminal justice reform and educational equity. Redistricting belongs to all of us and we all have a part to play because state senators are about to make decisions impacting our lives for the next 10 years.
Redistricting affects our daily lives more than we realize. The drawing of district lines can determine not only who runs for public office and who is elected, but also how financial resources are allocated for schools, hospitals, roads and more. Whatever our background or community, Nebraskans believe every vote should count equally and we should all get our fair share. Redistricting is how we can make that happen.
But that’s only what happens when it works like it should. This incredibly important process is vulnerable to abuse.
You may have heard the word “gerrymandering” before. It describes politicians and outside organizations putting their own interests ahead of voters, drawing maps that carve up our communities for narrow personal or partisan interests. Gerrymandering politicians want to choose their voters when it’s voters who should be choosing their politicians.
When district lines are drawn unfairly, we see unequal representation and fractured communities. Communities of color, in particular, have faced numerous obstacles to meaningful participation in the political process, including the redistricting process.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 clearly prohibits the drawing of district lines that dilute the voting strength of communities of color and we’ll be watching to make sure that law is respected. We’re working to ensure district maps are fair, so all eligible voters have a fair chance to elect their candidates of choice.
We only get a say on this once every 10 years, so we have to get it right.
HOW IT WORKS
The Nebraska Legislature is in charge of redistricting legislative districts and congressional districts in Nebraska. Each state senator will have a say on the final maps, but nine of them will play a more involved role. Redistricting Committee members include Senators Lou Ann Linehan (chairperson), Carol Blood, Tom Briese, Tom Brewer, Suzanne Geist, Steve Lathrop, John Lowe, Adam Morfeld, and Justin Wayne.
Federal and state laws provide basic guidelines for state senators to follow.
Districts should respect the idea of one person, one vote. They should be geographically connected, something you can draw without lifting a pencil off paper. They should preserve a community of interest, meaning you shouldn’t split communities with distinct features in common such as a historic neighborhood. And, finally, they should respect the boundaries of cities, towns, villages and counties.
The basic idea is that districts should make sense to the people who live in them.
What does all that look like in action? The new Census numbers assign two clear tasks to legislators:
- State senators will need to redistribute tens of thousands of voters across Nebraska’s congressional districts. Nebraska has three congressional districts, and each has its own House representative. Currently, CD-1 (Lincoln and Eastern Nebraska) represents about 34% of the population, CD-2 (Omaha area) represents about 36%, and CD-3 (rural Nebraska) represents about 30%. Those percentages should all be as close to equal as possible after redistricting so we all have an equal say in federal representation.
- State senators will also need to assign more representation in the Nebraska Legislature to our fastest growing communities. Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster County now hold 56% of the state’s population. This means the metro counties are entitled to 27 seats in the 49-person unicameral. Currently, they hold “25.8” since some legislative districts encompass multiple counties.
The Nebraska Legislature’s redistricting process includes other maps, such as the State Board of Education, University of Nebraska Board of Regents, and more. These should follow similar guidelines as the process for determining congressional and legislative lines. The same is true for county-level redistricting, which is led by county boards of commissioners and boards of supervisors.
AUGUST: Redistricting season officially began in August with the release of new Census data.
SEPTEMBER: The process will be full steam ahead in September, when state senators come back to the Nebraska State Capitol for a special session focused exclusively on redistricting. Nebraska lawmakers are set to begin their special session on Monday, Sept. 13 and hope to finish redistricting by the end of the month. Below are three opportunities Nebraskan's have to attend public redistricting meetings across the state:
September 14th at 1:30pm
Central Community College
Room 555, Health Science Ecucation Center
3134 W. Hwy 34
Grand Island, NE
September 15th at 9:00am
Nebraska State Capitol Bldg.
1445 K St.
September 16th at 10:00am
Scott Conference Center
6450 Pine St.
With other voting rights and civic engagement organizations, we are demanding increased transparency and opportunities for input as the Nebraska Legislature goes about this critical work. This webpage will be updated as public hearings or other community events are announced.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
We need redistricting in Nebraska to ensure all voters are fairly represented, regardless of their race or for whom they vote. These maps need to equally represent everyone.
The good news is that public opinion is definitive. Polling we commissioned earlier this year showed cross-party, statewide consensus that Nebraskans want the state’s redistricting process to be transparent, nonpartisan and data driven. Results also show Nebraskans would be more likely to vote against state senators who disregard those values for partisan interests, even if it benefits their preferred political party.
How do we carry that message to state senators? Plan to make your voice heard.
You can contact your state senator now to encourage them to follow the data with a fair and transparent process that is nonpartisan and that respects the political power of Black voters and all voters of color. Use our action form to send a message directly to your state senator.
When hearings are announced, attend them and advocate for your community.
Here are some general questions to consider asking:
- What are the most significant changes from the existing maps that you anticipate?
- Will incarcerated people be treated as residing where they are incarcerated or where they previously lived? (The ACLU of Nebraska strongly supports reallocating prison population counts to their home addresses to ensure equity in representation and resources.)
- Will you commit to making your decision-making process public?
- Will you be revising the maps based on our input?
- How will you avoid drawing districts to favor incumbents?
- What will you do to ensure that boundaries are not drawn for a purpose of favoring or disfavoring a political party?
- What are you doing to ensure that communities of interest stay intact?
- What will you do to ensure that boundaries are not drawn for purposes of favoring or discriminating against a political party or community of color?
Through public education, advocacy, and litigation, we hope and expect to create fairer maps that will provide better representation for all.
Thank you for demanding fair maps.