Nebraska Redistricting Cases:  the 1990s

Day v. Nelson240 Neb. 997, 485 N.W.2d 583 (1992)

Madison County citizens challenged in the District Court of Lancaster County the constitutionality of 1991 Neb. Laws. LB 614, which redrew the State's legislative districts after 1990 federal census.  The plaintiffs alleged that LB 614 abolished Madison County as a unitary district and instead divided the county between two preexisting districts, which violated the Nebraska Constitution, Article III, § 5, and Article I, §§ 1 and 3.   They pointed out that Lincoln County, which was the only other county in Nebraska that could be a unitary district, was not split between other preexisting districts as Madison County was.  Article III, § 5 states, "county lines shall be followed whenever practicable, but other established lines may be followed at the discretion of the Legislature." Although dismissed by the District Court, the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court of Nebraska, which stated the Legislature had violated Article III, § 5.  The judgment was reversed and the cause remanded to the District Court of Lancaster County.  Subsequently, the Nebraska Legislature held a special session in 1992 and enacted LB 7 to redraw the district boundaries in Madison County to conform to Day v. Nelson.

Thompson v. Nelson, DOC. 484-091 (Dist. Ct., Lancaster County, dismissed Sep. 9, 1992)

Plaintiffs in Southwest Nebraska challenged the constitutionality of Neb. Laws. LB 614, 1991, based on Article III, § 5 of the Constitution of the State of Nebraska, which requires that any redistricting respect and follow county lines whenever practical.  The plaintiffs stated that the Legislature failed to follow and respect established county lines in Red Willow County, which had been included in one multicounty legislative district before the enactment of LB 614.   During the second special session held in 1992 to address the district boundaries in Madison County, the Legislature also redrew the district boundaries in Southwest Nebraska and enacted LB 15. After the passage of LB 15, the case was voluntarily dismissed.

Hlava v. NelsonNo. S-33-92004 (Dist. Ct., Lancaster County, dismissed Sep. 30, 1992), aff'd 247 Neb. 482, 528 N.W.2d 306 (1995)

Sheridan County had historically been included in one district, District 49.  LB 614 divided Sheridan County into two legislative districts:  two Gordon City precincts were added to District 43; the rest of Sheridan County remained in District 49.  Amendments to LB 614 by LB 7 and LB 15 had no effect on the division of Sheridan County.   Plaintiff Hlava filed suit in District Court in Lancaster County alleging that LB 614, as amended, violated Article III, § 5, of the Nebraska Constitution because the Legislature failed to follow county lines where practicable.  Hlava requested an injunction against implementation of the statue.  Hlava also contested the Legislature's self-imposed statistical guideline that districts not deviate more than plus or minus two percent from the ideal population of 32,212, arguing that a larger deviation could have allowed Gordon to remain part of District 49.  The District Court found that LB 614, as amended, was constitutional and dismissed the case.  The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed.

Carlson v. NelsonNo. CV92-3300 (D. Neb., dismissed Mar. 16, 1993)

Plaintiff Carlson had won the May 1992 primary election as a candidate from District 19.  When the Legislature redrew district boundaries in a special session called, in part, to address the Supreme Court decision in Day v. Nelson, the new plan made Carlson a resident of District 40.  She sued in U.S. District Court, alleging that the new boundaries made her ineligible in the general election, disenfranchising her and the voters of the former District 19.  She also claimed violations of her rights to due process of law and equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and her rights to freedom of association and freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.   Plaintiff's complaint was dismissed without prejudice.

State Contact

Val Goodman
Research Analyst
Legislative Research Division
State Capitol, P.O. Box 94945
Lincoln, NE 68509
402/471-2234 voice