Expand Nebraska's nonpartisan elections - Open Primaries
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Expand Nebraska's nonpartisan elections

Posted by Russell Daniels on February 09, 2020 at 12:37 PM

Expand nonpartisan elections

written by Senator John Mccollister & Adam Morfeld for The Lincoln Journal Star

Eighty-six years ago, Nebraskans fundamentally changed the way we are represented. Our forefathers were unwilling to stand idly by as our state experienced the massive political and social unrest of the Great Depression. Our Legislature was gridlocked and unable to respond to the pressing challenges of the day.

They answered the challenge -- like the Greatest Generation answered every other challenge of the time -- with deep faith in the spirit of the American people and a heavy dose of common sense. In so doing, they enacted some of the most consequential political reforms since our state’s founding, including the creation of a unicameral legislature with a nonpartisan election system where all voters vote.

U.S. Sen. George Norris, the visionary Republican who led the effort, firmly believed partisan politics had gotten in the way of practical governing and was causing very real harm to the people of our state. Norris said, “Men in legislatures, elected on a partisan platform, are inclined to follow the bidding and dictates of party machines and party bosses.”
Today, the Nebraska system is a shining example to the rest of America. While Washington and most state legislatures are dominated by party politics, Nebraska senators of all political persuasions continue to build an inclusive and productive legislative culture of debate, innovation, transparency, coalition building and broad access to government.
That’s the key to the Nebraska system -- empowering voters and elected leaders to work together by removing the partisan structures that keep them apart. Common-sense decision making is in short supply in so many other parts of our country. That’s why delegations from other states often visit Lincoln to study the Nebraska system.

Unfortunately, partisan dysfunction is the norm throughout the United States, and Nebraska is far from immune. Our nonpartisan electoral system only applies to state legislative offices. Federal and statewide officials are elected using a Washington-style partisan system of closed partisan primary elections.

Today, Nebraska is the only state in the country that uses one system (open and nonpartisan) to elect state legislators, and a completely different system (closed and partisan) to elect federal and statewide officials. It’s time to have a serious conversation about expanding our highly popular and successful open primary system!

We recently introduced LB1005 to extend the same system of nonpartisan primary ballots we use for the Unicameral to all other statewide offices including governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and attorney general. It would also replace partisan primary elections for U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate with the nonpartisan ballot. As a result, all Nebraskans -- Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike -- would be able to participate in fair and inclusive elections. And, our elected leaders would be free to govern for the people, not for the special interests.
Eighty-six years ago Nebraskans developed a common-sense blueprint to make our elections inclusive and our government work. It made a huge difference in our politics. Simply put, the Nebraska system works. In Washington and other states, party-dominated systems lead to gridlock, voter exclusion and ineffective government. Let’s take the next step and expand the system that George Norris helped develop so many years ago to include all statewide and federal offices.
We hope you will join us in this important effort.

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