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Nebraskans Can Give Feedback on New Voter District Maps Next Week

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Thursday, September 9, 2021   

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Next week, Nebraska lawmakers will hold three public hearings on how new voter maps should be drawn for the state's 49 districts.

Good-government groups are urging state senators to protect the voting rights of all Nebraskans, and to be transparent about how data from the 2020 census is driving their decisions.

Sam Petto, communications director for the ACLU of Nebraska, encouraged voters to make their voices heard, because what might sound like a wonkish process will impact peoples' lives for the next decade.

"The drawing of these lines is going to determine not only just who runs for public office," Petto explained. "But also how financial resources are allocated; funding for our schools, hospitals, infrastructure, roads and bridges."

Hearings are set for Grand Island on Tuesday at the Central Community College; at the state Capitol building in Lincoln on Wednesday, and at Omaha's Scott Conference Center on Thursday next week. The hearings are a part of a brief special legislative session that aims to finalize new voting maps by the end of this month.

Petto noted his group will also be on the lookout for any signs of gerrymandering in new maps, a tactic used by majority parties to carve out districts in order to tilt election outcomes in their favor. He pointed out a clear sign of politicians putting their own self-interest ahead of communities is when they disregard standards that they promised to follow, and are often enshrined into law.

"Keeping communities of interest together, preserving counties wherever possible, and making sure that you are not trying to intentionally dilute the voting power of Nebraskans of color," Petto outlined. "Anything to that effect would be a red flag."

Polling conducted earlier this year found a strong majority of Nebraskans, across party lines, want to see districts drawn fairly, and voters do not want partisan politics to interfere with the process.

Petto reported voters made this point especially clear when asked how they would feel if their senator rigged maps to benefit their own political party.

"Nebraskans said, 'I don't want that, I'd be more likely to vote against a politician who did that, even if it helped my own party,'" Petto recounted. "Nebraskans are really clear that they are just looking for a fair process, and now it's on state senators to make sure that's what they do."

Disclosure: ACLU of Nebraska contributes to our fund for reporting on Civil Rights, Criminal Justice, Immigrant Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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