Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN — After months of voting complaints in Omaha — charges that Republican Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps is trying to stop Democrats from casting ballots — a panel of lawmakers today got their first earful.
They also heard from Phipps’ staunchest ally, who said Phipps is being unjustly accused and harassed.
All this follows Nebraska Watchdog’s exclusive report that a bill is in the works to send Phipps packing. During a Government Committee hearing several witnesses noted Phipps’ controversial decision earlier this year that closed dozens of polling places for the May primary.
Phipps — who said he was only trying to save money —apologized and re-opened some of the sites for the November election.
But Phipps’ critics argue the damage was already done.
Willie Hamilton of the NAACP testified that Phipps’ actions were no accident.
According to Hamilton, some inner city Omahans went to vote totally confused, having received three separate voter location cards in the mail from Phipps’ office.
“One, OK,” said Hamilton. “Two, maybe. Three, ridiculous.”
But State Sen. Scott Laughtenbaugh, a former Douglas County election commissioner, came to Phipps’ defense.
Laughtenbaugh says Phipps has not been out to suppress the Democratic vote.
“This is a bizarre vendetta against Mr. Phipps,” said Laughtenbaugh.
Where the committee goes from here is anyone’s guess, but as Nebraska Watchdog first reported, State Sen. Steve Lathrop is likely to push a bill changing how Douglas County’s election commissioner is named.
For nearly 100 years the governor has appointed the commissioner in the state’s most populous county.
But with Democrats charging Phipps and fellow Republican Gov. Dave Heineman of dirty politics , Lathop — an Omaha Democrat — is looking at two plans.
One would make the elected county clerk the election commissioner; the other would find the Douglas County Board making the appointment.
Lathrop is sure of one thing. Phipps has to go.
“I don’t want to accuse anyone of being incompetent or political, but I don’t know what other explanations there are,” Lathrop told Nebraska Watchdog.
Contact Joe Jordan at [email protected]
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