An effort to limit the population count used to redistrict legislative districts has failed to move forward this legislative session.
Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln opposes the effort, saying that limiting the count only to citizens is morally wrong.
“Some of our districts have thousands of immigrants, both documented and maybe some undocumented, that contribute to our economies and deserve representation,” Morfeld tells colleagues during legislative floor debate. “Maybe they don’t have the right to vote. They don’t get to vote, and we can argue the merits of that some other time, but they deserve representation.”
Legislative Bill 1115 would conform the population count used for redistricting legislative districts, Supreme Court districts, and all political subdivision districts to the Nebraska Constitution which restricts the population to citizens only, excluding immigrants.
Sen. John Murante of Gretna, sponsor of LB 1115, tells colleagues they’re risking a lawsuit by failing to count citizens only as required in the state constitution.
“Using the rationale that we should simply ignore the constitution will bring immediate litigation,” according to Murante. “Why wouldn’t somebody file a lawsuit if they’re detrimentally hurt by the redistricting process in 2021 when the plain language of the constitution says that aliens are to be excluded?”
Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln, stating she rises to speak with a heavy heart, tells colleagues the bill makes her sad, because it leaves out the human element concerning immigrants.
“And then if we pass this kind of legislation, for us to be telling them, ‘You’re not even welcome here. We’re not even going to count you here.’ I can’t even image what that feels like,” Wishart says.
Yet, Murante says the measure merely follows the state constitution which requires only citizens be counted.
Then, Murante issues a warning.
“If this legislature proceeds in 2021 to move a (legislative) district out of rural Nebraska and put it into Douglas County because non-citizens are counted, I guarantee you there will be a lawsuit.”
Murante though couldn’t find the votes needed to overcome a filibuster. The bill dies for this session.