Sen. John Murante’s plan for slicing up the state into legislative districts of roughly equal population following the 2020 U.S. Census would strictly adhere to the parameters of the Nebraska Constitution, he said Thursday.
Article III, section 5, which spells out how legislative districts should be divided, states: “The basis of apportionment shall be the population excluding aliens, as shown by the next preceding federal census.”
According to Murante, the Legislature has not followed the state constitution's guidelines in drawing new boundaries for legislative districts and the state's other political subdivisions every 10 years. He said redistricting efforts in the past have included noncitizens living in the state.
Murante, serving his final year in the Legislature, said his bill (LB1115) removes the number of non-U.S. citizens living in the state — as estimated by the Census Bureau — from being counted for redistricting purposes.
The plan marks a new approach for Murante, a Republican from Gretna who has previously worked with Democrats to pass a redistricting bill that would shift the task from the Legislature to a commission of citizens.
That bill, passed in 2016, was vetoed by Gov. Pete Ricketts, who suggested it had constitutional flaws.
Using the formula prescribed in Murante’s latest attempt to reform the state's redistricting process, Nebraska would have excluded approximately 82,000 noncitizens from being counted when it last redrew legislative districts. The state’s population in 2010 was about 1.82 million people, according to census data.
Based on the 2010 population count, 4 percent, or roughly 12,800 noncitizens, would have been excluded from Lancaster County's count.
Currently, Lancaster County includes nine of the state's 49 legislative districts.
Douglas County, the state’s most-densely populated area, is cut up into 14 legislative districts.
The boundary lines of those districts could shift dramatically under Murante’s plan. The Census Bureau counts more than 34,500 people living in Douglas County as noncitizens, or roughly 6.4 percent of its population.
Colfax County — which is split between District 22, represented by Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus, and District 23 with Sen. Bruce Bostelman — would have lost an estimated 2,000 people — nearly 20 percent — from its 2010 redistricting count.
Other counties that would see dramatic differences in how future populations are counted for redistricting include Dakota County (where 12.8 percent of population is estimated to be noncitizens), Hall County (10.6 percent), Dawson County (9.8 percent) and Saline County (9 percent).
Calling the bill a “common-sense proposal,” Murante said his plan would ensure the maps drawn for future Legislatures were “of, by and for the people of Nebraska.”
“We can’t ignore the constitution moving forward,” he said.