By Don Walton, Lincoln Journal-Star, September 28, 2021, Updated November 2, 2021 —

While the congressional redistricting spotlight has centered on metropolitan Omaha’s competitive 2nd District, western and central Nebraska’s 3rd District is on pace to grow to encompass 80 counties and spread across an estimated 85% of the state.

It would continue to expand into the northeastern and southeastern boundaries of Nebraska, adding Thurston, Burt and Washington counties on the north and Otoe County on the south.

Eastern Nebraska’s 1st District, which includes the city of Lincoln and Lancaster County, emerges looking like a jigsaw puzzle piece caught between the other two districts.

The 1st District would shed five counties in the plan that cleared first-stage consideration in the Legislature last week on a 36-10 vote.

A longstanding Republican imperative to retain Madison County (Norfolk) in the 1st District, represented by Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, was adhered to in the proposal that emerged from the Legislature’s Redistricting Committee.

Madison County has been regarded as a dependable and politically untouchable source of GOP strength in the northern part of the district, as evidenced by the 2020 vote: Fortenberry, 12,104; Democratic challenger Kate Bolz, 3,073.

The congressional redistricting bill would move Saunders County into the 2nd District and adjust Sarpy County portions of the district.

All three congressional districts are represented by Republicans, but the Omaha district is the only competitive district in the state.

At stake in that district not only is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives but also a politically glamorous presidential electoral vote.

Democratic President Joe Biden won that vote last November while Republican Rep. Don Bacon was winning reelection to his third term.

While the congressional redistricting bill (LB1) gained sufficient support on its first floor test to clear a filibuster, it attracted far more opposition than the proposal (LB3) to redistrict seats in the Legislature.

The congressional plan advanced last week 36-10, three votes more than the 33 that would be required to break a filibuster. All the no votes were cast by Democrats.

The accompanying legislative redistricting package advanced from first-round consideration on a 43-5 vote, with five rural Republicans voting no.

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