Government Military and Veterans Affairs

Election advisory committees proposed

The Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony Feb. 14 on a bill that would increase public involvement in the election process.

LB235, introduced by Omaha Sen. Sara Howard, would create an election advisory committee in any county of more than 100,000 residents. The committee would directly advise the county election commissioner on issues including voter registration and elections.

Howard said public input in the election process is important.

“This would ensure a transparent election process with adequate public input,” Howard said. “This would be a big step in restoring voter trust.”

Each advisory committee would comprise six members. Two members each would be appointed by:
• the political party with the highest number of votes at the last general election for governor;
• the political party with the second highest number of votes at the last general election for governor; and
• the election commissioner.

The members appointed by the election commissioner must have no affiliation with either of the two highest vote-getting political parties.

The bill would establish a public hearing process for any proposed changes to election precincts. The election commissioner would be required to give at least one week’s notice in a newspaper of general circulation prior to the public hearing.

The size of election precincts also would be reduced from 1,750 voters to 1,000. Howard said increased precinct sizes led to decreased polling places, making it more difficult for certain groups of people to vote in recent elections.

Nebraskans for Civic Reform executive director Adam Morfeld supported the bill, saying a lack of communication has led to decreased public faith in the election process.

“It’s time we put in place permanent mechanisms to ensure maximum communications between election commissioners and the public they serve,” he said.

Wayne Bena, Sarpy County election commissioner, opposed changing the size of precincts, saying it was targeted at Douglas County.

“This is a knee-jerk reaction to perceived problems with the 2012 general election in Douglas County,” he said. “What might apply in one county won’t work in every county.”

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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