Redistricting hearing Tuesday

Every 10 years the Legislature is required to redraw the boundaries for electoral districts based on the newest census data.

And while the process has not produced the tortuously gerrymandered results that have made headlines in other states, Nebraska has not been without some border skirmishes, particularly between the 1st and 2nd congressional districts.

Past efforts to pass legislation establishing an independent commission to oversee this work (which would still need to be approved by the Legislature) have gone nowhere and so the usual procedure will run its course this year except that with the pandemic delayed census data  senators will have to reconvene in special session later in the year to approve the redistricting results.

The usual course means a committee of senators selected by the Executive Committee of the Legislature (comprised of 5 Republicans and 4 Democrats in the officially nonpartisan Unicameral) will issue guidelines for the process and work with Legislative Research Office to produce new maps for congressional and legislative districts and for the Public Service Commission, State Board of Education and the state Supreme Court.

The redistricting committee has a separate page on the Unicam’s website where you can see who’s on the committee and read a draft of their guidelines as well as look at the current district maps. They will be holding a public hearing on the guidelines this Tuesday, May 18th at 8 a.m. in Room 1525 at the state capitol. Short notice, but it was just announced last week.

There is nothing obviously suspicious in the proposed guidelines. They prescribe equally populous and contiguous districts without favor to a particular party because … what else would they say in writing? What counts, of course, are the results where subtle manipulations can be mixed in or explained and argued away. So, it’s good to follow the process where we can as their deliberations won’t be public until they put up maps for approval in August or September. Although that will be open for debate by the whole of the Legislature, this is likely the only public hearing in the process.