Civic Nebraska maintains that all county election commissioners in the state should be accountable to the voters and be elected directly in accordance with the Nebraska Constitution. On Jan. 14, a Lancaster County District Court judge ruled the gubernatorial appointment of election commissioners was constitutional, counter to a 2019 Attorney General’s Opinion deeming the exercise “constitutionally suspect.”
The ruling largely focused on the history and practical consequences of the practice and seemed to weigh those ideas against the plain language of the Nebraska Constitution. Attorney General Doug Peterson has committed to appealing the ruling to the Nebraska Supreme Court. We thank the attorney general for appealing this decision.
The right of Nebraskans to elect state and county officials must be jealously protected. No amount of time spent in error alleviates the urgency with which we must bring these statutes into alignment with the plain language of the state Constitution and restore voters’ rights to elect the people who run their elections.
Election commissioners in the three counties in question – Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy – are currently appointed by the governor. All told, these counties make up roughly half of the state’s voting population.
If and when the state Supreme Court considers the attorney general’s appeal, our confidence rests in the plain language of the Nebraska Constitution, its definition of “necessary county officers,” and its direct assertion that those officers are to be chosen by Nebraska voters.