Support, connection, growth: Civic Nebraska’s 2021 in review

The year at Civic Nebraska was filled with activity, advocacy, enrichment, and education.

Every day of 2021, Civic Nebraska was in our streets, our schools, and the halls of government to say: We means all of us. We are all co-creators of our interconnected, interdependent, networked reality – and so what we all do matters. Every single one of our actions, big and small and all taken together, creates our shared democratic future.
This mindset has been essential in the past year. We navigated an entire school calendar amid a deadly pandemic; we innovated to build connections across our state so our communities could tackle common challenges; and we assisted and protected voters across the political spectrum as they cast ballots in hotly contested municipal elections in the state’s two biggest cities.
Here are a few highlights from 2021 at Civic Nebraska.


›› We entered 2021 with cautious optimism, knowing that COVID and increasing partisanship at the statehouse would make things more difficult at the State Capitol. 
›› After supporters of the outgoing president stormed the U.S. Capitol, we were understandably upset – not just about the thwarted insurrection, but about the persistent and seductive untruths that led to it. Two and a half weeks later, we continued to wrestle with it at our first Civic Saturday of the year.
›› Nebraskans are national leaders in spending time with neighbors, family, and friends, volunteering, and working to achieve positive local results. But we can improve in spending time with those of different backgrounds, voting, and constructively discussing politics to address mutual problems, according to our brand-new Nebraska Civic Health Index.


›› Civic Nebraska led opposition to LR3CA at a hearing of the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee of the Nebraska Legislature. The proposal would have instituted a voter ID requirement on Nebraska voters. 
›› We led support for a pair of proposals that would reform the state’s treatment of former felons’ right to vote.


›› Freedom House, a U.S.-based NGO that defends human rights and promotes democratic change, issued its annual Freedom in the World report. It marked the dubious milestone of 15 straight years of decline in global freedom.
›› Our Rural Civic Health program helped students Alexandria Rinne and Ray Nierman map the people, passions, groups, places, events, and resources that sustain civic life in a pair of Nebraska communities.
›› Civic Nebraska joined with ACLU Nebraska to send thousands of early voting ballot applications to registered voters in Lincoln and Omaha for the May 2021 municipal elections in the state’s biggest cities.


›› What Our Neighbors Said chronicled Collective Impact Lincoln’s work since its launch in leading substantive improvements in six Star City neighborhoods. While there was plenty for the multi-organization partnership to celebrate, its organizers said efforts had only just begun.
›› Primary voters in Lincoln and Omaha narrowed the field of candidates vying for municipal offices and also harnessed the power of early voting to establish new high-water marks for participation.
›› Read it and keep: Our first book, Reclaiming WE: Twenty Everyday Acts to Strengthen the Common Good and Defend Democracy, hit bookshelves in late April.
›› At our annual Strengthening Democracy Awards event, we honored 10 Nebraskans for their work to create a modern and robust democracy in our state. We also heard from acclaimed author Eric Liu on spreading civic power across Nebraska.


›› On back-to-back Tuesdays in early May, Civic Nebraska observed Lincoln and Omaha election sites, monitored election systems, and provided day-of assistance to voters.  
›› Following adjournment of the Nebraska Legislature, we celebrated a few victories and contemplated a few what-ifs regarding the year’s legislation about Nebraskans’ right to vote.
›› Collective Impact Lincoln awarded 12 mini-grants of up to $1,000 each for improvement projects in Lincoln’s core neighborhoods.


›› Together with our partners at the Omaha Public Library and Lincoln City Libraries, we released the Summer of Democracy Reading List, 14 nonfiction titles about civics, history, politics, and human nature.
›› We celebrated the re-opening of our Greater Nebraska HQ by hosting The Summer of Civic Renewal for Tri-City area residents.
›› Our 2021 CommUNITY Student Film Festival, organized by our Youth Civic Leadership team, culminated with public viewings in the Haymarket in Lincoln on June 20.
›› More than 50 Nebraskans joined us at Francie & Finch Bookshop on June 26 for a Civic Saturday celebrating our role of active citizen readers.


›› After failing repeatedly at the statehouse, a group of politicians announced they will seek a ballot initiative to rewrite the Nebraska Constitution to enact strict voter ID requirements for all voters in the state. Civic Nebraska mobilized immediately against this harmful petition.
›› Behind on Rent, a short film by Gabriella Parsons and produced in conjunction with our Speak Up For Housing Rights campaign, sweeps up national honors.
Whether in-person or online, we fortify Nebraska’s civic connections.


›› As leaders of the Nebraska Counts coalition – a statewide network to ensure a complete, accurate census count – in 2020, we were pleased to see Nebraska’s official results: a growing, increasingly diverse population that moved up in national rankings
›› How can we continue to make civics an engaging, powerful piece of students’ educations? We convened educators to discuss innovation in civic education.
›› We highlighted and connected Nebraskans whose daily work strengthened their communities’ civic health.
›› Legal clarity: The Nebraska Supreme Court rules on our challenge to a state statute that allows the governor to appoint election commissioners in large counties.


›› A new report on the 2020 election reinforced what we’ve known for a long time: If Americans are given the opportunity to vote easily, safely, and securely from home, they’ll do it.
›› Civic Nebraska led Nebraskans to rally at the State Capitol against a new politician-driven scheme to impose strict ID restrictions on the state’s voters. 
›› We organized activism during the statewide redistricting process, including testimony and working with lawmakers and other civic groups to ensure fairer maps.


›› To help stop the “civic slide,” Civic Nebraska and Beyond School Bells launched Forming a More Perfect Union, a digital resource for instructors and people of all ages to enrich their civic knowledge.


›› Too early? Or right on time? One year from the 2022 general elections, we launched our 2022 Election Central hub, a nonpartisan tool to educate and motivate voters.
›› International IDEA touched on the necessity of broad citizen support for democracy in its latest report, and called for “global democratic renewal” via three broad strokes for governments and citizens alike.


›› Civic Nebraska announced a national partnership with Unify America to offer the Unify Challenge for Nebraska, a way for Nebraskans of varying political viewpoints to find common ground. The challenge will take place in March 2022.
And those are just a few highlights from the past year – if you’re interested in learning more, here’s our 2021-22 annual report. On Friday, we’ll share what we have planned for 2022 in Youth Civic Leadership, Civic Health Programs, and Voting Rights Initiatives. If 2021 is any indication, 2022 is going to be an exciting year!

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Following the passage of LB20, which removes the extra two-year waiting period for Nebraskans who have completed a felony sentence to vote, Nebraska’s Voting Rights Restoration Coalition issued the following statement.

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