Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Orville Menard


The antiquated language, errors, omissions, and conflicts that exist within Nebraska's present election laws create a series of statutory obstacles that threaten to destroy the orderly processes of conducting elections. As a consequence, the state's election officials prepare for each election knowing in advance that the numerous statutes which guide their procedures are rife with conflict and controversy. The current statutes governing the state's election processes reflect an evolution that began more than a century ago. Although substantial changes have been made in the election code since its inception, almost a century passed before the Legislature became involved in recodifying the laws. The first major attempt to recodify the state's election statutes in 1951 did not change existing law except to recodify, rearrange, and clarify the election statutes into a uniform election code. Major changes were only made in those areas in Chapter 32 of the Revised Statutes of Nebraska, 1943 that contained conflicting statutory provisions. Although election law exists in many other chapters of state statute, no attempt was made to consolidate statutes into one uniform chapter. During the forty years that followed the 1951 recodification, very little was done to keep election statutes updated and current. Even though many of the statutes within Chapter 32 were newly adopted, substantially amended, or repealed, they added confusion rather than timeliness. As these statutes were amended by different legislative session, conflicting and differing processes developed which made it increasingly difficult for election officials to conduct elections. Each time new election related legislation was drafted it became increasingly more difficult to comprehend what statutes needed to be amended and cross-referenced to maintain harmony. Often the statutes were amended without fully taking into consideration the total impact on the requirements of other related sections of law. As a result, the state's election laws began to resemble a patchwork of requirements, increasingly difficult to access, identify, interpret, reconcile, and administer. To grasp the full context of the dilemma, this thesis examines historical changes in the state's election laws; assess the responsibilities and limitation imposed on the agents who administer the state's election laws; enquires into the specific nature of the difficulties in present state law related to elections; identifies who is responsible for interpreting, overseeing, and formulating election law; and finally dismisses potential solutions.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Political Science and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright Stephen J. Wiitala October, 1991