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Proposal seeks to overturn Nebraska's nonpartisan election requirement

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David Beasley | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – The Nebraska Legislature would no longer be the only lawmaking body in the nation that's officially nonpartisan under one proposal being considered this session.

LR282CA, sponsored by Sen. Julie Slama, proposes a constitutional amendment to eliminate the state's requirement for elections to be nonpartisan.

"If LR282CA passes, party affiliations for state senator candidates would be listed on ballots, just like candidates for President, Congress, Governor, and most other elected officials in the state," Slama said in a Facebook post. "That's it. LR282CA targets the issue of candidates misleading voters about their party affiliation. LR282CA is a simple change, adopted by 49 other states, to add transparency to our elections."

Nathan Leach, founder and director of Nonpartisan Nebraska, disagrees with Slama about identifying candidates by party.

"While senators are affiliated with political parties, Nebraska has a system that doesn't give political parties any more advantage than any other private organization," he told The Center Square. "It's just a more reasonable, logical, fairer way of lawmaking that is so foreign to any other state in the union."

Under Nebraska's system, "political kingmakers" don't dominate the Legislature as they do in other states, Leach said.

"It's focused on this really novel idea that when we send lawmakers to Lincoln, their job is to represent the constituents who elected them, not to represent the Republican or the Democratic, Libertarian or any other party," he said.

In other states, political parties control committee assignments of legislators and other aspects of the legislative process, including how members vote, Leach said.

"That puts them into a situation where they have to think about whether they will lose their  ability to move up in the political system or lose their chairmanship if they oppose a bill they morally and reasonably believe is not going to help my constituents," Leach said. "Lawmakers should not be faced with that question. That is what the idea of a nonpartisan legislature in Nebraska is based on."

The Executive Board heard the measure earlier this month but did not take action on the bill.