Two organizations concerned with voting rights have asked Secretary of State John Gale to exercise his statutory authority as the state's chief election officer to "inspect and review" recent actions in Douglas County that sharply reduce the number of voting locations.
Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps has cut polling places in half for the 2012 election.
"According to our analysis, Commissioner Phipps' polling place closings disproportionately impact low-income and minority populations' access to the polls," Gale was told in a letter sent Tuesday night by Adam Morfeld, executive director of Nebraskans for Civic Reform, and Rebecca Gould, executive director of Nebraska Appleseed.
"These actions appear to have a discriminatory effect and impinge upon the fundamental right to vote," they wrote Gale.
The result is "overwhelming concern among community members that these changes are confusing and are likely to have the effect of disenfranchising thousands of Nebraska voters," their letter stated.
Morfeld and Gould told Gale they are formally requesting that he "initiate an official investigation" into the practices and procedures initiated by Phipps.
Gale, they noted, already has raised his own concerns in an e-mail communication to Larry Bare, who is Gov. Dave Heineman's chief of staff.
In that e-mail, Gale said the slash in voting sites "seems troubling" and expressed concern that Douglas County has fallen behind in recording registered voters.
"Those concerns also provide additional grounds for an investigation into not only voter registration practices, but also Commissioner Phipps' administrative practices as a whole," Morfeld and Gould told Gale.
"Fair and well-administered elections are critical not only to a representative democracy, but also to the public perception of the legitimacy of our elections," they wrote.
See the video here: http://www.kmtv.com/news/local/146029095.html
Lincoln, NE -- A warning from a top Nebraska government official - closing polling places in Douglas County will "likely cause voter confusion". Action 3 News has learned some of Nebraska's top officials questioned Dave Phipps' decision to cut so many polling places. The man behind the questioning email is responsible for overseeing the state elections. Why would he try to kick Liz Dorland out of the capitol when she went to ask about the email?
Liz Dorland had to run just to catch up with Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale.
Liz shouted, "Mr. Gale. I'm Liz Dorland with Channel 3. I want to ask you a couple of questions please about Mr. Dave Phipps and his decision to close half the polling places."
John Gale didn't stop when he replied, "You know I've told your News Director that I was not available for an on-camera interview."
Mr. Gale knows Liz went to talk with him about an email he wrote March 2nd to Governor Heineman's Chief of Staff. In it, he calls the decision to close polling places "troubling".
"If you interrupt me or interfere, I'll have to have you removed from the Capitol, but go ahead ask your questions," replied Gale.
Secretary Gale said he knew Phipps wanted to close polling places all over the county several months before he did it. Gale said, "I don't have the discretion or authority to override Mr. Phipps decision."
Secretary Gale emailed a letter as a "head's up" to the Governor's office, warning of possible problems. He explained, "Our concern was that in a presidential year it might cause undo confusion of voters and that they needed to make sure if they were going to do that that they did it right, and the public knew about it and they were well informed."
Dave Phipps responded, "No I think regardless of what type of election year this presidential or not it was the right thing to do."
Gale's email adds "a 50% drop in precinct numbers is pretty major in one year".
"He obviously thinks that was too drastic of a cut and I believe that was appropriate," said Phipps in response.
The email continues, Gale's office is "concerned about some of the management issues with Dave Phipps" . Governor Heineman's Chief of Staff replied to Gale with a simple "thanks".
Governor Dave Heineman said on Monday, "I let the election commissioners worry about the elections."
The Governor's office emailed this statement: "This email was sent as a heads-up and taken as such. No further action was taken."
Governor Heineman appointed Dave Phipps. Many, including State Senator Brenda Council believe it's time for Heineman to step in. Senator Council said, "This is his appointee and his appointee's performance is being questioned by a Constitutional Officer, the Secretary of State and he's revealing in this email how troubling it is."
If the Governor doesn't, Council warns frustration in the legislature could quickly change. "It can rise to the level of anger when you've been put on notice that it could create problems and nothing is done to stop it or in that regard to mitigate the damage that it would cause," explained Senator Council.
Vince Powers speaks for the Nebraska Democratic Party. "This is extremely serious. This is a scandal. They sat on it they knew it," said Powers.
The Nebraska Democratic Party is demanding the Governor step-in and fire Phipps. "The question is will the Governor come forward voluntarily and answer questions as to what did he do and if he didn't do anything why he didn't. or will it take the legislature or will it take the civil rights division of the justice department," Powers added.
The overriding question for Secretary Gale, can polling places be re-opened by the May primary? He explained, "I don't know if any significant changes at this point are even possible by the primary election."
It's an election that's now just six weeks away. So it all comes back to Governor Heineman.
He told Liz Dorland he doesn't have time to look at the problems this week. However, Governor Heineman will be in Omaha Wednesday morning at Omaha Country Club, located at 6900 Country Club Road. Liz will be there to speak with Governor Heineman and give it another try.
OMAHA– A column from Mark Shields over the weekend says Bob
Kerrey is just the independent thinker that the United States Senate needs.
“The officeholder in the Opposition Party who dares to break
from his side’s rigid orthodoxy is admired — by those of us in Our Party — as a
courageous maverick who has the guts to take a lonely stand against party
bosses. But when the rebel is in Our Party, too often we react quite
differently. Then, the dissenter in our ranks is an unreliable and, probably, self-absorbed
turncoat. Hypocrisy, anyone?”
Read the entire column here:
On Sunday, I marched the Edmund Pettus Bridge. On the other side, there
were columns of Alabama State Troopers lining Highway 80. It could not
have been 1965; nearly all of the troopers were African American.
Not far ahead of me was Congressman John Lewis, who, along with
Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and other iconic leaders of the civil rights
movement, marched from Selma toward Montgomery on March 7, 47 years
ago. But most of us marching, then and now, were ordinary citizens. In
1965, there were 600 Americans who may never become household names, but
who marched that day for a fairer America—an America where all eligible
citizens could safely register to vote, cast a ballot, and have their
votes counted just like anyone else.
"We are excited to have another excellent Democratic candidate for the United States Senate this year. The entrance of former Senator Bob Kerrey is further proof that this is an attractive race for Democrats, due in part to the considerable weakness of the Republican candidates.
Two great Democrats in the Senate race assures us that we will have a strong contrast in November to the ethical lapses of Jon Bruning and the extremism of the perennially-rejected Don Stenberg."
Statement from Senator Bob Kerrey
Doing things the conventional way has never been my strong suit. This afternoon, I will file to become a candidate for the United States Senate in Nebraska. I came to realize that my previous decision was the easy one, not the right one. My commitment to serve Nebraska and America, and to be part of the debate about the challenges we face was too strong to dismiss. My family supports this decision 100%. I look forward to seeing you in the coming weeks. We have a lot of work to do.
From the Lincoln Journal Star.
"The Nebraska Democratic Party does not typically endorse candidates for office prior to the primary election in contested races, nor do we discourage anyone from running for office. Once we reach the campaign filing deadline, we will see where we stand in terms of candidates for the U.S. Senate race.
The fact that we have people battling to get on a statewide ballot shows the robustness and vitality of our Party. It proves the Democratic Party of Nebraska is alive and well, contrary to recent commentary of some publications. We are building the machine to victory in November and one thing is for certain: we will present a strong contrast to the ethical lapses of Jon Bruning and the extremism of the perennially rejected Don Stenberg."
LINCOLN - Nothing will get in the way of Governor Dave Heineman's plan to increase taxes on property owners while reducing taxes for the wealthy - absolutely nothing.
According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Heineman said Thursday in an address to the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry that lawmakers should not bother to send him any legislation to sign until they pass his tax-cut package, as is.
Some of the legislation the Governor will apparently hold hostage include the child welfare reform bills that seek to rectify the millions the Governor has thrown away at the Department of Health of Human Services through mismanagement and inefficiencies.
"These threats are not just counterproductive to our legislative process - they are insulting and repugnant," said Jim Rogers, Executive Director of the Nebraska Democratic Party. "This Governor is like the child in the playground who takes his toys and goes home. Instead of temper tantrums, what we need is leadership."
The Governor won't let anything get in the way of his tax scheme. The plan will guarantee a $50 million cut for education for Fiscal Year 2012-2013 and county officials say it will result in an increase in property taxes
"The bill is bad on the merits and should not become law," Rogers said. "It would result in severe cuts to education and an increase in taxes for property owners. The wealthy would get the benefits while the middle class would get peanuts."
By Chris Triebsch
In contrast to recent endorsements from the State Republican
Party, the Nebraska Democratic Party is keeping an open process before the
The Nebraska Democratic State Central Committee met over the
weekend without endorsing any candidates.
“It shows the contrast between our two parties,” said Jim
Rogers, Executive Director of the Nebraska Democratic Party. “The Republican
Party closes people out. The Democratic Party welcomes people in. We already
have a great slate of candidates. In some races, we have multiple Democrats
running. We believe this is good for the process and good for the voters. While
the Republicans engage in backroom deals, we keep our doors open.”
Incumbents for office must file by February 15.
Non-incumbents must file by March 1.
The Lincoln Journal Star detailed some of the Republican
One of the Republican candidates endorsed is John Murante, a
former legislative staffer who helped redraw legislative maps during last
session’s redistricting process. Murante announced his run for office
immediately after the maps were made official, and conveniently, already had
endorsements from top Republican elected officials.
“This underscores how the Republican establishment
operates,” Rogers said. “They pick candidates behind closed doors, redraw
legislative maps accordingly and then close the process to other Republican
candidates who may want to run. By contrast, the Nebraska Democratic Party is a
party of the people.”