Gov. Dave Heineman and Sen. Ben Nelson trade barbs over the controversial closing of polling places in Douglas County.
Earlier this week, Heineman charges Nelson made injected politics into the issue.
“I think Sen. Nelson has made this a more partisan issue than it needs to be,” Heineman, a Republican, stated during a conference call with reporters. “I wish Sen. Nelson would lead the effort to repeal Obamacare. That would be the best thing he could help Nebraskans with during the remaining time he will be serving in the United States Senate.”
Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps took advantage of a change in state law and closed 166 of the county’s 352 polling places. Phipps estimated the closings would save the county $115,000. The Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest and Nebraskans for Civic Reform had complained the closings would adversely affect the poor and minorities.
Nelson, a Democrat, and former state Sen. Ernie Chambers have requested the Department of Justice investigate the closings.
Nelson denied the accusation leveled by Heineman and then leveled a criticism of his own.
“This is part of pattern for Gov. Heineman. He ignores a serious problem as long as possible and then criticizes those who bring it to his attention and make suggestions as to how to deal with it,” Nelson said. “Now, the best thing the governor can do for the citizens of Nebraska is to run state government and stop playing politics.”
The governor has instructed Secretary of State John Gale to review the closing of polling places in Douglas County prior to the general election in November. It is too late to make any changes in time for the primary election.
All four of Nebraska’s largest counties closed polls. None closed as many as Douglas County. While Douglas County closed nearly half its polling places, Hall County closed 30% of its polling places, Sarpy County closed 25% of its polling places and Lancaster County closed 15% of its polling places.
Gale said he has been in conversations with Phipps. He said those conversations will become more serious after the May 15th primary election.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]