LINCOLN — A legal challenge to the constitutionality of appointing election commissioners for some Nebraska counties has been moved to a lower court.
Attorney General Doug Peterson filed the case in Lancaster County District Court after it was rejected by the Nebraska Supreme Court.
In a statement Wednesday, his office said the state high court had been willing to take the case if both sides could agree on a common set of facts. The court set a Nov. 5 deadline for the agreement. But Peterson’s office said it could not reach a consensus in the time available.
The district court case asks that state laws requiring the appointment of election commissioners and deputy election commissioners in the state’s largest counties be declared in violation of the Nebraska Constitution.
“Hopefully, we can get a timely ruling at the district court level and anticipate that the decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court to have a final legal ruling on the constitutionality of the statutes,” the AG’s statement said.
The case names the election commissioners and chief deputy election commissioners of Lancaster, Douglas and Sarpy Counties as defendants.
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In a Sept. 24 opinion, Peterson concluded that election commissioners and chief deputy election commissioners are county officers and therefore, under the state constitution, must be elected. A state law dating back to 1913 calls for them to be appointed in counties with more than 100,000 residents.
Peterson’s opinion also raised concerns about a law giving county boards the option to appoint election officials in counties with 20,000 to 100,000 residents. County boards appoint such officials in Buffalo, Cass, Hall and Platte Counties.
Elected county clerks serve as election commissioners in all other counties.
State Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln, who requested the attorney general’s opinion, said he plans to introduce legislation next year to make all election commissioners elected.
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