The Gateway Unpacks: Legislators Propose Redistricting Maps

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Anton Johnson
ONLINE EDITOR

Voters choosing their representatives, or representatives choosing their voters? The legislature will debate redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative districts in the coming weeks. Graphic by Anton Johnson/The Gateway.

Nebraska State Senators unveiled opposing plans to redraw the state’s three congressional districts during a Redistricting Committee meeting Wednesday. The legislature will convene Monday to begin debate on redistricting maps for U.S. Congress, as well as for the Unicameral and other statewide offices like the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

Here’s a breakdown of the proposals:

Current map

Nebraska’s three congressional districts. Graphic by Anton Johnson/The Gateway.
District 1 (blue) District 2 (green) District 3 (purple)
Trump (R) +15.1 Biden (D) +6.6 Trump (R) +53.2
2020 presidential results by congressional district. Map and data courtesy of Dave’s Redistricting.

Nebraska has three congressional districts. The 2nd Congressional District (NE-2) currently includes all of Douglas County, and the western half of Sarpy County. The 1st Congressional District (NE-1) includes most of eastern Nebraska, including Lincoln and the rest of Sarpy County, and the 3rd Congressional District (NE-3) makes up the rest of the state.

Because Nebraska splits its electoral votes by congressional district, the redistricting plan will directly affect the 2024 and 2028 presidential elections as well. President Joe Biden won NE-2 in 2020, despite Republican Don Bacon winning reelection to the House of Representatives in the same year.

According to U.S. census data, Douglas and Lancaster Counties both grew by 13% and Sarpy County grew by 20% since 2010. The state as a whole only grew by 7.4% because of population decline and stagnation in rural areas. The census was bad news for Republicans, who dominate rural areas.

The Republican Proposal

The Republican proposal to redraw Nebraska’s congressional districts. Graphic by Anton Johnson/The Gateway.
District 1 (blue) District 2 (green) District 3 (purple)
Trump (R) +10.8 Biden (D) +6.0 Trump (R) +51.5
Estimated 2020 presidential results with proposed redistricting. Map and data courtesy of Dave’s Redistricting.

State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, chair of the Redistricting Committee, unveiled the Republican proposal Wednesday morning. The plan would split Douglas County between two districts for the first time since 1890.

Northwestern Omaha would join Lincoln and Fremont as a part of NE-1. All of Sarpy County would be added to NE-2, along with Saunders County and the rest of Douglas County. With Omaha split in two and diluted by rural counties, the city’s growth wouldn’t prevent Republicans from sweeping all three congressional seats again in 2022.

However, NE-1 would become noticeably less favorable for Republicans. Lincoln’s growth and the addition of parts of Omaha wouldn’t be enough for a Democratic candidate to be favored over incumbent Jeff Fortenberry, but an upset would become a possibility.

The Democratic Proposal

The Democratic proposal to redraw Nebraska’s congressional districts. Graphic by Anton Johnson/The Gateway.
District 1 (blue) District 2 (green) District 3 (purple)
Trump (R) +12.9 Biden (D) +9.4 Trump (R) +53.2
Estimated 2020 presidential results with proposed redistricting. Map and data courtesy of Dave’s Redistricting.

Vice chair of the Redistricting Committee, Democratic Sen. Justin Wayne proposed an alternative map Wednesday afternoon. The Democrat’s map would be more geographically similar to the current map, but it would result in a greater partisan shift because of demographic changes.

All of Douglas County would remain in NE-2, and the district would now include parts of eastern Sarpy County instead of the western half. NE-1 would gain the rest of Sarpy County and lose Platte and Polk Counties.

Potentially, NE-2 would shift from a toss-up district to lean Democratic. NE-1 would also become more Democratic, although it would shift less than it would under the Republican proposal. 

Redistricting Committee Meetings

The Redistricting Committee will vote on a final plan for each map, before holding public hearings next week in each congressional district. Residents will be able to voice their comments and concerns before the legislature takes a final vote by the end of the month.

Sept. 14 at 1:30 p.m.

Grand Island

Central Community College Health Science Education Center, Room 555

Sept. 15 at 9 a.m.

Lincoln

Nebraska State Capitol, Room 1524

Sept. 16 at 10 a.m.

Omaha

Scott Conference Center

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