State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Category: Nebraska

Take a Note from Nebraska

By: Eleyse D’Andrea

Criminals have been stripped of their rights – including the right to vote – throughout history.  The revocation of voting rights, known as disenfranchisement, can be traced as far back as ancient Greek and Roman civilization. European colonists carried the concept of disenfranchisement to America, and it has prevailed in modern times despite various challenges.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the disenfranchisement of convicted felons does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution in 1974, and several years later found that a disenfranchisement law is unconstitutional only with evidence of purposeful racial discrimination. This decision gave states like Nebraska the right to permanently disenfranchise convicted criminals. Although Nebraska originally had one of the harshest disenfranchisement laws – a lifetime ban for ex-felons – a bill passed in 2005 provides automatic restoration of voting rights to felons two years after completion of felony sentence.

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Nebraska: Cattle, Corn, and the Unicam

By: Eleyse D’Andrea

Debate over partisanship has been a major point of contention throughout American history.  Nonpartisanship in the early twentieth century focused on removing party politics from election processes to lessen the power and influence of political machines on citizens’ voting decisions. At the other end of the spectrum, proponents of partisan structure supported the positive role of political parties as a means of mobilizing citizens to participate in the political process, and furthermore lauded party identification on ballots as central to informed voting. In today’s America, partisanship is common and party ballot identification is a central element of many voting models. Nebraska, however, stands alone as the only state to remove party labels from state legislature ballots

Nebraska

Nebraska sample nonpartisan ballot

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Two Letters, The National Voter Registration Act, and Voter-ID in Nebraska

By: Eric Sutton

On September 22, the Omaha World Herald published a story about two letters sent to seven Nebraska counties threatening lawsuits for voter registration irregularities. In particular, the letters alleged that the Nebraska counties of Wheeler, Loup, Kimball, Thurston, Hooker, Keya Paha, and Thomas have more registered voters than individuals of voting age. While the groups behind the letters argue that the threat of suit is designed to prevent voter fraud through effective maintenance of voter registration records, an examination of the Nebraska Legislature’s most recent session, and the past of the two organizations responsible for the letters, indicates that these letters may provide the foundation for a renewed push for voter-ID in Nebraska.

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Nebraska’s Death Penalty Saga: Referendum on the Plains

By: Eric Sutton

Background and the Referendum Process

            On Wednesday, May 27th, 2015, the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature eliminated capital punishment through LB 268. The bill was approved over a veto by Governor Pete Ricketts, by a no-votes-to-spare 30-19 margin, and marked the end of State Senator Ernie Chambers’ 39-year effort to end the death penalty in Nebraska. The repeal made Nebraska the first conservative state to eliminate capital punishment in more than 40 years. However, immediately after the repeal, State Senator Beau McCoy, a conservative, expressed his frustration over the vote and announced his intent to pursue a ballot initiative to reinstate the death penalty. Less than one week after the repeal and Sen. McCoy’s statements, a group named Nebraskan’s for the Death Penalty (“NFDP”) filed the appropriate paperwork with the Secretary of State to reinstate the death penalty by referendum.

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Nebraskan Improprieties: They’re Only Illegal If the Legislature Says So

Public corruption is something all Americans abhor, even the appearance of it.  That is especially true when it comes to our elections, the fundamental building blocks of the democratic process.  But acts of corruption are only illegal to the extent that the law says so.  One cannot commit an illegal act where the law does not prohibit such conduct.  Christopher Geary, a one-time hopeful for the Nebraska Legislature, is living proof of this principle.

Nebraska’s 7th Legislative District encompasses parts of downtown Omaha and neighboring Douglas County.  During the 2012 election cycle, District 7’s residing incumbent was Jeremy Nordquist.  Christopher Geary challenged Nordquist in the officially non-partisan primary and funded his campaign with mostly personal expenditures.  Geary ultimately lost by a significant margin.  Instead of immediately removing his name from the general election ballot, however, Geary decided to attempt a recovery of his personal funds spent on the campaign.  He did so with the following email to Nordquist:  Continue reading

Nebraska’s Need for Electoral Reform

by Jordan Evans

Since the 1992 Presidential election, Nebraska has used the Congressional District Method (CDM) to distribute its electoral votes.  The 2012 Presidential election should be the last time it is used.  While the CDM seems ideal for adhering to the “one person, one vote” standard articulated in Reynolds v. Sims, it actually does greater harm than good.

The CDM can be much different from the winner-take-all approach.  It is different in that the candidate receiving the most votes statewide does not necessarily receive all of Nebraska’s electoral votes.  Instead, a candidate receives the same number of electoral votes as congressional districts he wins.  The statewide winner then receives two additional electoral votes, representing Nebraska’s two Senate seats. Continue reading

Solving the Epidemic of Disappearing Poll Workers – Part 2: A Poll Worker Draft?

poll 2

As discussed last week, the graying of America is seen most potently behind the polls. The decreasing numbers of poll workers across the nation has been threatening the centerpiece of our democracy. The first article focused on how young people can and should fill that void. This week, we take a look into a less conventional method of filling the need: Making poll working mandatory.

Currently, there are only two counties in the entire country that uses a drafting system for poll workers. Nebraska law allows for a draft and both Douglas and Sarpy County have taken part. At least one other state has considered the idea of a poll worker draft. In 2007, Ohio’s Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, announced the idea, but was eventually met with considerable criticism from the legislature. The word “draft” itself has a grim, scary, and negative connection in our country. However, there are many positives that could come from instituting a poll-worker draft in a jurisdiction in need. Lets call it election duty (like jury duty) to make it more palatable.

HOW COULD A DRAFT HELP?

The problem of long hours at the polls plagues every jurisdiction. It is a little discussed fact that anyone who offers to become a poll worker must work from about an hour before the poll opens to after the poll closes in the evening. Not many people would sign up for these long hours, even when payment is offered (which often comes out to very near minimum wage). However, a election duty system would help not only to alleviate the general need, but with a high participation rate, everyone who participates would have an easier job. In one district where it might take four people 14 hours of work each, 8 citizens could be pulled to work 7 hours and even get regular breaks. From another perspective, this would also make election duty less demanding. A less daunting task for those who choose to participate would help the image of election duty. Continue reading

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