LINCOLN, Neb. (KTIV) - The Nebraska Unicameral starting meeting on Monday in a special session to look at drawing new lines for several elected offices. It is a process that takes place every ten years after the federal census data is released.
Redistricting itself is the act of redrawing congressional boundaries. Following the release of the 2020 Census numbers, Nebraska lawmakers have been tasked with redrawing their state into three districts. According to LR134, senators will draw congressional districts with populations as close to equal as possible.
It's to ensure equal representation for Nebraskans who live in those districts.
It can be a complicated process because lawmakers have the ability to stack the deck, creating boundaries which give one party an unfair political advantage, a process known as gerrymandering.
The map above was approved after the 2010 Census. District 2 represents Omaha, District 1 is the suburbs around Omaha and includes Lincoln and Norfolk. While District 3 covers everything else, including South Sioux City.
Rules dictate that boundaries must follow county lines “whenever practicable” and result in districts that are compact and contiguous. This year, there are two proposed maps on the table.
The first map by Republican Sen. Lou Ann Linehan splits Douglas County in half and adds all of Saunders and Sarpy County to the 2nd District. In Siouxland, it also moves Thurston County and part of Burt County into the 3rd Congressional District.
The second map was proposed by Democratic Sen. Justin Wayne. It adds more of Sarpy County to the 1st Congressional District and keeps all of Douglas County in the 2nd Congressional District. In Siouxland, Wayne's map moves Platte County to the 3rd Congressional District.
The entire process takes place after federal census data is released, But this year, it is a little later than normal.
"Everything is off the norm because of the COVID situation. We would have already handled this in the general session. We had to come back because the data was not available until around Aug. 15," said Sen. Tim Gragert of Creighton, Nebraska.
Gragert said the theory behind the process is to give everyone in the state equal representation in the Unicameral.
"At the end of the day, we are going to do the best we can to try and balance out roughly 40,000 people per senator the fairest way we can for Nebraskans," added Gragert.
Sen. Joni Albrecht of Emerson, Nebraska, said the job of the Unicameral in this process is to give a voice to everyone.
"That's our job is to make sure that everyone gets a voice in all of it when it comes to public service commission, when it comes to broadband, and grain bins and things like that, I mean that's what they do," said Albrecht.
Albrecht also said any additions made to representation would come in the midterm elections.
"The boots on the ground are the ones who let us know how things are and what they need from us and if there's something that is glaring that needs to be changed I'm quite certain we will work through that," added Albrecht.
Public hearings will be held Sept. 14 through Sept. 16.
District 3's hearing, which will be held Sept. 14 in Grand Island. District 1's hearing will be held Sept. 15 in Lincoln.
And District 2's hearing will be held Sept. 16 in Omaha.
Floor debate is scheduled to begin on Sept. 17.
Iowa's lawmakers are also working to redraw political boundaries. The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency is planning to release its redistricting plan on Sept. 16.
Three virtual hearings will be held Sept. 20 through Sept. 22 to receive public input on the proposed maps. Once a report is prepared for the legislature, lawmakers may meet in a special session to vote on the map.
South Dakota has only one congressional district, so it does not go through a federal redistricting process.