The Nebraska Supreme Court should serve the public interest by deciding a constitutional question raised by Attorney General Doug Peterson about county election commissioners. The court needs to resolve the current uncertainty that hangs over the process of selecting those officials for seven Nebraska counties.
The legal quandary involves a 1913 state law requiring that the governor appoint the election commissioner in counties of a certain population. The law was a reform measure intended to promote honest government. A recent opinion from Peterson’s office concluded, however, that the law is inconsistent with the Nebraska Constitution.
Peterson’s opinion relates to seven Nebraska counties: Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy — whose election commissioners are appointed by the governor under the 1913 law — as well as Buffalo, Cass, Hall and Platte Counties, where the law gives county boards the option to appoint the election commissioner.
Elected county clerks serve as election commissioners in all other counties.
This legal uncertainty has led Gov. Pete Ricketts to end efforts to decide on a successor to Brian Kruse, the Douglas County election commissioner, whose four-year term ends Dec. 31. Peterson then filed a lawsuit asking the high court to resolve the issue.
The Attorney General’s Office examined this matter after State Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln raised the issue in the wake of legal analysis by Civic Nebraska, a nonprofit.
Nebraska’s Supreme Court is the ultimate decisionmaker on state constitutional matters. The court can fulfill that vital role now by giving state and county officials the direction they need on the election commissioner issue.