In July 1992, the Nebraska Supreme Court interpreted a provision in the Nebraska Constitution requiring the boundaries of the state's election districts to follow county lines whenever "practicable." In Day v. Nelson, the court apparently interpreted this provision to require that the legislature respect the boundaries of any county with population within an acceptable range. This Note examines the impact of the court's decision in Day, noting the potential for conflict between the holding of the court and the requirements imposed upon a redistricting legislature by the state constitution, the Constitution of the United States, and other federal law. Part II begins with a historical discussion of the state and federal requirements of equal population, compactness, contiguity, and the respect for county boundaries, providing the framework in which a Nebraska redistricting legislature must operate. Part III provides a discussion of the Day opinion itself, presenting the relevant facts and the court's path to its interpretation of the Nebraska county line provision. Part IV closely examines the interactive nature of the many requirements placed upon a redistricting legislature, and concludes that the holding of the Nebraska Supreme Court in Day v. Nelson has the potential to conflict with the anti-discrimination and anti-gerrymandering standards of the United States Constitution and other federal law. It then presents an alternate interpretation of the provision which would give the legislature the flexibility necessary to comply with the many requirements placed upon it. Part IV ends with a discussion of a plausible motivation for the decision of the Day court. Part V concludes the note with a brief summary and suggestions for future Nebraska legislators confronted with the task of legislative redistricting after Day.
T. Parker Schenken,
Inconsistent Restrictions on Redistricting: Equal Protection, Effective Representation, and Respect for County Boundaries—Day v. Nelson, 240 Neb. 997, 485 N.W.2d 583 (1992),
72 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol72/iss3/9