Ensuring Voter Access in New NE District Lines | News

(KMAland) – Voters in Nebraska may vote at unfamiliar polling places for the upcoming midterm elections after the Nebraska Legislature established new district maps, which were recently the subject of a meticulous examination.

Gavin Geis, executive director of Common Cause Nebraska, said politicians were working to ensure rural areas retained seats that could have gone to urban areas with the highest population growth, according to the 2020 census.

“And the way that was accomplished was to spread out these rural districts and put fewer voters in these districts,” Geis explained. “And then round up as many urban voters as they can get away with.”

The majority of Nebraska’s communities of color reside in the state’s urban centers. Recent independent analysis by two Nebraska math professors found several flaws in the final maps.

Of the 15 crowded districts, 13 were in Lincoln or Omaha. Geis noted that the variance of the population distribution was less than 5%, the legal limit.

Common Cause and other groups will work to ensure Nebraskans voting in new districts for the first time can vote. Geis added that volunteers will be on site on election day to make sure people are at the correct polling station.

“And I think a lot of this year will help straight people who may have shown up in the wrong place,” Geis pointed out, “Assuming ‘this is where I’ve always voted,’ only to find out that it changed because those lines changed.”

Geis stressed that his group and others will also continue efforts to create an independent commission to draw the maps once a decade after the next census. Under the current system, politicians who directly benefit from the way districts are drawn are essentially creating maps behind closed doors.

“With a citizens’ commission, there would be more direct engagement with people,” Geis pointed out. “And just that added level of accountability versus what people in communities want, versus what politicians want their districts to look like.”

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