New tied election procedures advance

Losing a primary election in a tie would not automatically end a candidate’s run under a bill advanced from general file Jan. 28.

Under LB144, introduced by Bancroft Sen. Lydia Brasch, any candidate who loses a primary election decision “by lot” for county, city, village or school district office would be eligible as a write-in candidate in the general election for the same office.

Currently, these primary elections that result in a tie are decided by lot — an object used to determine a question by chance such as a coin toss or the drawing of a card. The loser of the decision by lot is ineligible to run for the same office in the general election, including write-in candidacy, filing by petition or filing a nomination. The only exception would be if there is a vacancy on the ballot for that office.

Brasch said current practices undermine the will of the people.

“Our duty as caretakers of the election process is to build an election system that promotes civic involvement and fairness,” she said. “These games of chance do not express the choice of the people in such small, close races.”

Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh supported the bill, saying it provides a clear, simple solution.

“It seems unfair to tie in the primary and then be prohibited from running in the general [election] because of a game of chance,” he said.

A floor amendment introduced, and later withdrawn, by Norfolk Sen. Jim Scheer would have included natural resources district member elections in the bill. He said senators should be thinking about the big picture when reforming election practices.

“If we are going to put this on the table to talk about, now is the time to look at the problem in its entirety,” Scheer said. “We should be looking at the total picture, not exclusively in one isolated case somewhere in the state.”

Hyannis Sen. Al Davis introduced a floor amendment to include all elections in the state, saying the issue of fairness in elections required more thought. He later withdrew the amendment.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers introduced a motion to bracket the bill until April 17, 2014. He said no one knows what far-reaching consequences the bill would have.

“My job is to look after what I deem to be the interests of the public and the Legislature as an institution,” he said. “Nobody is harmed if we don’t pass this bill, but the entire system will be thrown out of whack if we do.”

The bracket motion failed on a 13-20 vote.

Senators voted to advance the bill to select file on a 28-6 vote.

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