LINCOLN - On Wednesday, the Nebraska Legislature's executive board heard arguments for the Redistricting Act, sponsored by Sen. John McCollister.
The bill aims to eliminate politics from the once-a-decade redrawing of the state's political districts.
Gavin Geis, executive director for Common Cause Nebraska, said redistricting has been used to solidify power for those already in office, and to disperse representation for communities of color.
Geis argued the state needs a process that is transparent and nonpartisan.
"In a truly representative and fair democracy, we have to have voting districts that represent the people who live there and let voters choose their representatives, instead of representatives choosing their voters," Geis asserted.
Nebraska's constitution currently grants the authority of redistricting solely to legislators.
Legislative Bill 107 would create new rules and a redistricting committee with five lawmakers from the majority party and four lawmakers of the minority party.
The rules would prohibit partisan demographic data, including residents' party affiliation and voting records, from being used to draw district boundaries.
If passed, the state's legislative research office still will draw maps based on the latest Census and geographical data. But legislators will not be able to substantially reconfigure those maps; they can only correct errors.
Geis believes the bill is necessary because elected officials currently have both too much to lose and too much to gain in the redistricting process.
"Especially incumbent legislators, who will run for election in the districts they just helped draw," Geis pointed out. "As partisans shift those maps to favor one candidate over another, it's really the voter that loses out."
The measure also calls for public hearings for proposed maps in each of Nebraska's congressional districts.
Redistricting based on the 2020 Census is expected to begin in September, and those districts will remain set for the next decade.
A recent ACLU poll found more than 90% of Nebraska voters want redistricting to be data-driven, transparent and nonpartisan.