DECODING THE BALLOT is a nonpartisan guide designed to bring clarity to your options in the 2022 Nebraska elections.
Welcome to Decoding the Ballot 2022! This nonpartisan resource from Civic Nebraska explains the roles, responsibilities, and compensation for elected offices on ballots for the 2022 primary (May 10) and general (Nov. 8) elections in Nebraska. Each entry has a brief description of the office’s responsibilities, terms, and salary, if applicable. For more information, please contact our Election Protection Line at 402.890.5291, visit Election 2022 Central or email me at email@example.com.
Thank you for being an informed participant in your democracy!
John Cartier, J.D., Director of Voting Rights, Civic Nebraska
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, also known as The People’s House, are made up of 435 representatives allocated to districts given to a state based on their population. Nebraska has three members of Congress. The House has the sole power to draft and introduce bills related to revenue and impeachment cases sent to the Senate.
■ On April 1, 2022, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced a special election would be held June 28 to fill Nebraska’s 1st District Congressional seat, which was vacated March 31 with the resignation of former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. See our Key Dates page for more information on this race, including a 1st District map and registration/voting deadlines.
4-year term, $105,000; limited to two consecutive terms
The Governor of Nebraska is an elected constitutional officer, the head of the executive branch and the highest state office in Nebraska. The governor is popularly elected every four years by a plurality and is limited to two consecutive terms with at least one term intervening before the same individual may seek the office again.
The governor is the commander-in-chief of the state military forces in the state of Nebraska. The governor is the chief budget ofﬁcer and must present the Nebraska Legislature with a complete budget for all expenditures used in running the state’s regular business.
The governor is the chairperson of the Board of State Canvassers and the Board of Pardons. The governor is a member of the State Records Board, Nebraska Capitol Commission, Education Commission of the States, State Board of Health, Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, Nebraska Hall of Fame Commission, Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, and other groups as provided by law.
Other duties of the governor include appointing certain officers as required by the state Constitution and statutes and filling vacancies in state offices; signing or vetoing bills passed by the Legislature; calling elections to fill vacancies for members of Congress; enforcing criminal laws; and convening special sessions of the Nebraska Legislature.
The Lieutenant Governor is the second ranking officer of the executive branch and the first officer in line to succeed the governor. The Lieutenant Governor earns $75,000 annually.
This race is officially partisan, meaning the winners of the May 10 party primaries will appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
The Attorney General is the chief representative for legal matters of for the state. The attorney general is separated into the civil litigation bureau, criminal bureau, legal services bureau and the public protection bureau. The duties and authority of the office are derived from the Nebraska Constitution, statutory enactments and common law.
The Secretary of State has responsibilities over the following areas: elections, business services, occupational licensing, state rules and regulations, records management, international relations and youth civics programs. The secretary of state is the keeper of the Great Seal of the State of Nebraska, and the office is the repository for official state documents.
The State Treasurer is the chief financial officer of Nebraska’s government. The Treasurer is responsible for maintaining the state funds by investing and maintaining the state budget. The department’s main purpose is to invest state funds and maintain accurate records of transactions enacted by the state. The state office also disperses funds to local governments as needed, keeps track of unclaimed property and helps with investments.
The Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts is an executive position in Nebraska’s state government. The mission of the office is “to provide independent, accurate, and timely audits, reviews, or investigations of the financial operations of Nebraska State and local governments.”
4-year term, limited to two consecutive terms, $12,000
Members of the country’s only unicameral legislative body create laws and make the rules for Nebraskans under certain constitutional limitations. This body also oversees many health care services and decides how much money public schools (from kindergartens to colleges) receive each year. If you are concerned about who pays how much in taxes and how those funds get spent, this is a very important election.
The duties of the Board of Regents include providing strategic leadership to the four-institution university system, promoting and advocating for the advancement of the system’s mission of education, research and outreach. Among its duties is the selection of the system president and approving budgets, and tuition rates.The board is made up of eight voting members.
■ Two of the eight board seats – one from District 6 and one from District 7 – are up for election in 2022. See district map
The Supreme Court consists of a Chief Justice and six associate justices. The Chief Justice, who represents the state at large, is appointed by the governor from a statewide list of candidates selected by a judicial nominating commission. The six remaining associate justices are chosen by the same judicial nominating commission procedure but each represents one of six districts. These judicial districts are approximately equal in population and are redistricted by the Legislature after each census.
Judges who wish to retain their seats must run for retention in the first general election occurring more than three years after appointment. Judges are then subject to retention every six years. Voters are asked to answer the question, “Shall Justice ___________ be retained in office?”
To remove a judge, more than 50 percent of voters must indicate they do not want the judge to be retained.
The following justices must stand for retention election in 2022 to remain on the Court. Justices may choose not to stand for election.
The district courts are Nebraska’s general jurisdiction trial courts. This means that with a few exceptions, civil and criminal cases of all types may be commenced in and tried by the district courts. District courts also function as appellate courts in deciding appeals from various administrative agencies and from most county court cases. When acting as an appellate court, a district judge reviews the record of testimony and evidence from the county court or administrative agency to rule on the appeal.
The State Board of Education is composed of eight voting members that represent one of Nebraska’s eight educational districts. This board is responsible for creating educational standards, and directing state dollars and federal programs for Nebraska’s classrooms. The Board of Education also appoints the commissioner for the Department of Education, and carries out federal education programs.
The Public Service Commission is a constitutionally created executive body comprising five seats including one chairperson. This commission is responsible for regulating telecommunications carriers, natural gas jurisdictional utilities, major oil pipelines, railroad safety, household goods movers and passenger carriers, grain warehouses and dealers, construction of manufactured and modular homes and recreational vehicles, high-voltage electric transmission lines, and private water company rates. The Commission also oversees and administers the Nebraska Universal Service Fund, the Enhanced Wireless 911 Fund, and the Nebraska Telecommunications Relay System Fund.
The Court of Appeals consists of six judges appointed by the Governor from lists submitted by judicial nominating commissions. From the six judges, a chief judge is selected to serve a 2-year renewable term. The districts from which the Court of Appeals judges are appointed are the same as those used for the six Supreme Court justices. The Court of Appeals is divided into two panels consisting of three judges each. The panels decide separate cases to expedite the processing of appeals. The composition of the panels changes periodically so that all the judges work with each other at some time.
The following judges must stand for retention election in 2022 to remain on the bench. Judges may choose not to stand for election.
Nebraska has three separate juvenile courts in Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy counties. In the remaining counties, juvenile matters are heard in the county courts. Separate juvenile courts are courts of record and handle matters involving neglected, dependent, and delinquent children. The court also has jurisdiction in domestic relations cases where the care, support, or custody of minor children is an issue. The three separate juvenile courts have the same jurisdiction and employ the same procedures as the county courts acting as juvenile courts.
Depending on where you live, you may have a Community College Board of Governors race. The board manages a community college’s staff and professors. It also develops its education programs based on its community’s needs. This includes setting tuition prices, setting the college’s budget and deciding the amount that may be collected from your property tax bill.
The Nebraska Association of Resource Districts is governed by a 23-member Board of Directors, each representing a natural resource district. The NRD Board of Directors decides how much is collected from your property tax bill for the NRD and uses that money for projects such as building dams, drainage ditches, flood control, and recreation trails. NRDs are also responsible for preserving and protecting groundwater and other natural resources for future generations.
Nebraska is unique for being the only state where electrical needs are provided by publicly owned utilities, which are largely known as public power districts. Depending on where you live, you may have a race to fill a seat on a board that serves one of the 166 community-owned utilities in Nebraska. Individuals elected to serve on a Board of Directors for a public power district will set the rates for residents and make decisions about investments in future energy sources.
Educational Service Units (ESUs) are political subdivisions that serve schools within their county-defined area by creating programs to support teachers and students. Core services provided by ESUs (in order of priority) are: staff development related to helping students achieve success who are impoverished and/or who come from diverse backgrounds; technology that helps assist distance education services; and providing instructional material services. ESUs may receive funds from local property taxes.
The county courts are trial courts with specified limited jurisdiction. All small claims, probate, guardianship, conservatorship, adoption, and municipal ordinance violation cases are filed in the county courts. Except in Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy Counties, where juvenile cases are handled by Separate Juvenile Courts, most juvenile matters are handled by the county courts. County courts conduct preliminary hearings in felony criminal cases. The county courts have concurrent jurisdiction with the district courts in some divorce cases and other civil cases involving $57,000 or less. They also have concurrent jurisdiction with the district court in misdemeanor criminal and traffic infraction cases, but nearly all of those cases are prosecuted in the county courts.
The Learning Community works in Douglas and Sarpy counties to help develop school programs that reverse the impact of poverty on learning. This used to be funded by a common levy but is now funded by property taxes.
The Metropolitan Utilities District of Omaha is a public utility that is customer-owned. The district provides public gas and drinking water to Omaha and the surrounding area. The Board of Directors sets rates & ensures water meets or exceeds all state and federal standards for drinking water.
■ The district is governed by an elected board of 7 directors who serve 6-year terms. In 2022, two of the seven seats – subdivisions 6 and 7 are open for election. See a map of MUD subdivisions.
Reclamation Districts provide for the conservation of the water resources of the State of Nebraska and for the greatest beneficial use of water within the state, organization of reclamation districts and the construction of works that are declared by such districts as a public use and will.