The governor called the Legislature into special session on Monday, September 13, to enact legislation on redistricting. The 2020 census data was released to states on August 12. Usually, this data is available by the end of March, and the redistricting process is completed during the regular legislative session. However, due to the pandemic, final population figures were delivered more than 4 months later than normal.

Every 10 years, after the census is completed, senators are tasked with redrawing boundary lines for six different entities. The general goal of the redistricting process is the creation of districts that are substantially equal in population. New maps are to be drawn for members of the Legislature, Representatives of Congress, the Supreme Court judicial districts, the Public Service Commission districts, members of the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska and for members of the State Board of Education.

The Redistricting Committee made public the maps for the redistricting plans just prior to the Legislature convening in special session. Two alternative plans were submitted for the legislative district boundaries and the congressional district boundaries. The Redistricting Committee held public hearings in each of the three congressional districts on their maps this past week.

At this time, only one congressional district proposal has been advanced to the Legislature for debate. Over the last 10 years, the population in Congressional District 1 (Lincoln and surrounding counties) and Congressional District 2 (Omaha and surrounding areas) increased, whereas Congressional District 3 (the rest of the state) experienced a decrease in population. Due to this population shift to more urban areas, boundaries will have to be adjusted. Under Legislative Bill 1, Douglas County would be divided among Congressional District 1 and District 2. Sarpy County would be kept whole in Congressional District 2, which would also gain Saunders County. Furthermore, Otoe, Cass and Thurston Counties would move from Congressional District 1 to District 3, as would half of Burt County and the southeast corner of Dixon County, making Dixon County entirely in District 3.

The ideal legislative district population is 40,031. This has increased from the target of 37,272 in 2011. The current population of Legislative District 40 is 35,576, which deviates from the ideal population by 4,455 or 11.1%. All six counties within Legislative District 40 decreased in population over the last ten years. The 2020 census showed Boyd County with a population of 1,810, down from 2,099 in 2010, or a 13.8% decrease. Cedar County decreased from 8,852 to 8,380 or by 5.3%. Dixon County fell from 6,000 to 5,606 residents or by 6.6%. Holt County fell from 10,435 to 10,127 or by 3%, whereas the population in Knox County decreased by 3.6% from 8,701 to 8,391. Rock County fell by the largest percentage, 17.3%, with their population decreasing over the last 10 years from 1,526 to 1,262. Legislative District 40 will have to grow in geographical size due to the loss in population.

Both LB 3 and LB 4, the redistricting plans for the legislative districts, eliminate one rural district and move it to the metropolitan area. (Based on census results, data showed the need to move either 1 or 2 districts, depending on how the maps were configured.) Under LB 3, Legislative District 40 would pick up Brown and Keya Paha Counties and the northeast corner of Pierce County but lose a southern and eastern portion of Dixon County. Under LB 4, Legislative District 40 would gain Pierce County but lose Rock County and the southern portion of Dixon County.  

Although my priority is to keep Legislative District 40 as intact as possible, I must also look at the entire state when considering what plan to support. I believe the maps will most likely be adjusted before the Legislature votes on Final Reading.

Please contact me if you have questions on the redistricting process. I can be reached at tgragert@leg.ne.gov. My mailing address is District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE  68509 and my telephone number is 402-471-2801.

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