Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog
Stalled plans promoting cleaner elections in Omaha, plans surrounding troubled Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps, appear to have new life at the State Capitol.
State Sen. Bill Avery tells Nebraska Watchdog the possible game changer is a recent ruling which found that Phipps’ office broke a federal law and kept some inner city Omaha voters from casting ballots last November.
Following an investigation directed by Republican Secretary of State John Gale it was determined that some voters were not allowed to cast provisional ballots, ballots that might be counted later, because they were unable to produce an unneeded voter ID number.
Gale’s inquiry followed a complaint by Nebraskans for Civic Reform which initially claimed that “hundreds, potentially thousands” of voters were denied the right to vote—the actual number was not determined.
Avery, chairman of the Government Committee which oversees election rules, tells Nebraska Watchdog the report is “interesting timing and puts some pressure on the committee to do something.”
Nebraska Watchdog found that Phipps, a Republican, refused to merge voting sites in at least one Republican part of town while closing numerous polling operations in Democratic neighborhoods.
Three bills, all potentially affecting Phipps, are under review by Avery’s committee which is made up of five Republicans and three Democrats.
- LB183 calls for the election commissioners in Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster counties to be appointed by the county board instead of the governor—Republican Governor Dave Heineman appointed Phipps. Avery, a Democrat, says the bill is deadlocked in committee and is expected to die.
- LB188 would require that the legislature OK the governor’s choice of election commissioners in Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster. Avery believes that although this bill was deadlocked it now appears likely to get a second vote and move to the floor.
- LB235, which has yet to be voted on by the committee, would shrink precincts from 1,750 voters to 1,000 and create a citizens group to oversee the top three county election chiefs. Phipps, who did not testify on any of this year’s bills, closed several Omaha polling places last May stirring controversy that he was out to suppress the inner city Democratic vote.
While it is still possible Avery’s committee will not advance any new measures he tells Nebraska Watchdog that would be a mistake.
“No action on the bills would further the lack of trust in the Douglas County Election Commissioner,” said Avery.
Contact Joe Jordan at [email protected]
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