LINCOLN — Election commissioners in Nebraska's largest counties would get citizen advisory committees to help oversee voter registration and elections under a bill introduced Tuesday by an Omaha lawmaker.
State Sen. Sara Howard of said she heard from many voters who were confused by the changes in precincts and polling places done last year by Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps.
Howard said her bill borrows the idea of advisory committees from Phipps, who used one before the general election.
“It would also really take the best practices the Douglas County election commissioner used in the last election,” she said.
Phipps was unavailable for an interview Tuesday. His spokeswoman declined to comment on the bill.
Legislative Bill 235 would apply to election commissioners in Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster Counties.
The two political parties with the most registrations in the county would each appoint two members to the committee. The election commissioner would appoint the remaining two members.
Howard's bill also would require public hearings before election commissioners could change the boundaries of election districts or relocate polling places.
It also would reduce the maximum size of precincts so they contain no more than 1,000 registered voters. The current law allows the number to be as high as 1,750.
Adam Morfield, director of Nebraskans for Civic Reform, was critical of changes Phipps made to polling places last year. He applauded Howard's bill, saying it would add transparency and citizen input to the election process.
Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber introduced two bills Monday related to the appointment of election commissioners.
One would require the Legislature to confirm the governor's appointments to the offices of the three largest counties. The other Karpisek bill requires county board members to appoint someone to the position.
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Lawmakers introduced 44 bills Tuesday on the fifth day of the session. Among them:
» Pay raises for top elected officials. Legislative Bill 217 by Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery would raise salaries for constitutional officers starting in 2015. The governor’s salary would increase from $105,000 to $126,000, attorney general’s from $95,000 to $114,000 and lieutenant governor’s from $75,000 to $92,000. The salaries of the secretary of state, auditor and treasurer would all increase from $85,000 to $102,000.
» Pay raises for top judges. LB 232, sponsored by Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, would raise the salaries of the seven judges on the Nebraska Supreme Court from $145,615 to an amount set by the Legislature. The bill calls for pay increases in July and again in 2014.
» Presumption of shared custody. LB 212, sponsored by Wilber Sen. Russ Karpisek, would require a presumption of evenly divided parenting time when courts create parenting plans in child custody cases. If one parent disagrees with an even split, the parent would be allowed to challenge the presumption. Courts must submit written orders when finding one parent deserves more custody than another.
» Preference for disabled veterans. LB 224 by Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont would require the state to give preference to disabled veterans who submit the lowest bids for public contracts.
— Joe Duggan