Every 10 years state legislatures across the country redraw geographic lines defining the districts for elected officials. This process is commonly known as redistricting. The purpose of redistricting is to preserve the one person one vote principle which means districts must be nearly equal in population. In Nebraska, that includes redrawing districts for the Legislature, the U.S. House of Representatives, the State Board of Education, the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska, the Public Service Commission and the Nebraska Supreme Court.
The Legislature adopted Legislative Resolution 134, which contains important redistricting guidelines related to population deviations, following county lines, preserving communities of interest, and preserving core legislative districts. LR 134 reiterates the constitutional directive that district boundaries shall not be established with the intention of favoring a political party or any other group or person. As you might guess, this is a very difficult and often contentious process.
The geographic center of Nebraska is right in the middle of District 36. The Heart of the Heartland! We all know the demographic challenges created for Nebraska with our population growing faster in the east than in the west. In fact, every legislative district west of District 36 has lost enough population to fall below the required population guidelines. Thankfully, that is not the case for District 36.
Legislative District 36, which I proudly represent, is one of many districts which fall within the required population guidelines. District 36 is a core legislative district with 21 communities, 13 school districts, five critical access hospitals, and a diverse agricultural base all located within Custer County, Dawson County and the northern part of Buffalo County. Reconfiguring a legislative district can cause significant disruptions to people, schools, businesses, hospitals and our state’s number one industry, agriculture.
Population numbers in District 36 have remained fairly constant over time because of the hard work and efforts of community leaders within the district. These leaders firmly believe the district is on the cusp of broad-based population growth. Our Chambers of Commerce and our local development companies have worked together on issues such as business recruitment and retention, workforce development, housing, school safety and tax policy. The critical access hospitals, which are major employers in District 36, have successfully built systems that enable them to work collaboratively to communicate the needs of the people they serve to the Nebraska Legislature through one voice. This has proven to be very valuable with issues such as Medicaid reimbursement. The same collaboration exists for our district schools, thereby allowing them to communicate their shared needs with a united and effective voice
As the state senator representing Legislative District 36, I can say that it would be very disappointing to ignore the unity that has been created within the current boundaries of the district. It is my firm belief that the current boundary creates a district with great commonalities and a district that speaks with a unified voice. Leaving the current boundary intact also follows our constitutional guidelines and the guidelines established under LR 134. It’s simply the right thing to do.
Matt Williams, of Gothenburg, represents Legislative District 36 in the Nebraska Legislature.