You win some, you lose some
Chalk up at least some partial wins in three high profile challenges impacting Nebraskans: the number of signatures required to get on the ballot; details about execution drugs; and the removal of a University of Nebraska-Lincoln instructor from the classroom.
A federal judge ruled that Nebraska’s law raising the number of signatures required to win a place on the ballot is unconstitutional.
A Lancaster County District judge says the state must release records of communications with the supplier of Nebraska’s execution drugs, invoices, inventory logs and photographs of packages.
The American Association of University Professors added the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to the list of censured administrations for violating the academic freedom of a professor removed from the classroom to end public backlash from a campus “free speech” incident.
U.S. District Judge John Gerrard ruled against a new state election law sharply limiting an independent candidate’s access to Nebraska’s statewide ballot. The challenge came from Kent Bernbeck of Elkhorn who wants to run for state treasurer. The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU Nebraska sided with Bernbeck that increasing the number from 4,000 to about 121,000 signatures of registered voters is unconstitutional.
Gerrard’s order wiped out a 2016 law that opponents contended effectively blocked the pathway for independent candidates because of the cumbersome and expensive challenge of acquiring that number of signatures.
Secretary of State John Gale and Attorney General Doug Peterson apparently decided to settle the case by agreeing the new requirement exceeds the signature requirements permissible under the First Amendment. Kudos to Bernbeck and the ACLU for a good fight and to Gale and Peterson for realizing it was over.
I agree with ACLU Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad that the swift, successful settlement of this case reinforces Nebraska’s long and proud tradition of ensuring fair elections and providing a level playing field for all candidates.
A Lincoln judge said the state must release records of communications with the supplier of Nebraska’s execution drugs, invoices, inventory logs, Drug Enforcement Administration records and photographs of packaging under public records laws. Judge Jodi Nelson said the Department of Correctional Services is to disclose the documents within seven days of the order, but a state appeal will likely delay that.
The judge also found that certain other documents which identify execution team members, including purchase orders and chemical analysis reports, are exempt from disclosure under a state law protecting the identity of the execution team.
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