Christensen confident Harlan and Gosper will join 44th District.
By Josh Sumner
The Wauneta Breeze
As the Nebraska State Legislature moves into the second half of the 2011 legislative session, redistricting talks are about to kick into high-gear.
How the redistricting will affect legislative pockets in western Nebraska is not yet known, however Sen. Mark Christensen of the 44th Unicameral District thinks he has a good guess.
Christensen said he is confident his district will gain Harlan and Gosper counties, each of which is currently in Sen. Tom Carlson’s 38th Unicameral District, while Hayes County might be in play for Sen. Tom Hansen of the 42nd Unicameral District.
Christensen explained the math.
According to 2010 census data, the average population size of each of the 49 legislative districts should be at 37,272.
The 44th Unicameral District is currently 4,261 people shy of making that number.
If the district was to lose Hayes County–population 959 in 2009 –while adding Harlan and Gosper Counties–population 3,234 and 1,844, respectively, in 2009 –it would be only 142 people off the targeted size.
Meanwhile, the 959 people residing in Hayes County, if added to the 42nd Unicameral District, would bump it within 25 people of the average district size.
“That would almost perfectly bring him up to his number,” said Christensen of Hansen and his district. “Even though Hayes County fits me extremely well, it’s one that could very easily leave.”
A legislative redistricting bill has yet to be introduced on the senate floor. Christensen did not mention a plan for making up the lost population in the 38th Unicameral District.
Legislative districts are currently allowed a 5 percent variance, above or below, the new target population of 37,272, according to state statute.
The 44th Unicameral District contains a population of 33,011, according to the 2010 Census –11.4 percent off the target size.
Congressional redistricting is a more stringent task, as variance numbers are kept tighter.
Nebraska currently has three congressional districts. The majority of the state is covered by what’s known as the “Big Third,” which encompasses 69 counties across all but the very eastern portion of Nebraska.
The 1st District includes the city of Lincoln and several eastern counties, while the majority of the 2nd District is made up of metropolitan Omaha.
Despite the massive geographical size of the 3rd District, it was 48,000 people shy of the ideal 609,000-resident split between the three districts, according to the 2010 Census.
As Nebraska’s population trend continues to move eastward, it’s becoming more clear that the geographical size of the Big Third is only going to grow.