On June 13, attorneys for the Nebraska Secretary of State asked a U.S. District Court to rule that the Nebraska petition requirement for non-presidential independent candidates is unconstitutional. The law requires signatures equal to 10% of the registered voters. When both sides agree in such constitutional cases, the judge always respects the unanimous views of the litigants. The case is Bernbeck v Gale, 4:18cv-3073.
The 10% petition requirement was passed in 2016, but not effective until after the 2016 election was over, so it will never have been in effect in any election. The state agrees that the old pre-2016 law will be policy, until the legislature revises the law. The law before 2016 required exactly 4,000 signatures for statewide office and U.S. House. The 2016 law requires approximately 125,000 signatures for statewide office, and approximately 42,000 signatures for U.S. House. It isn’t possible to say exactly how many signatures are required under the 2016 law, because the number of registered voters changes constantly, and the number would be determined as of the date of the registration tally closest to whenever the petition is submitted.
The 2016 bill had passed the legislature unanimously. It was part of an omnibus election law bill, and the 10% provision got no publicity at all. The lawsuit was filed by independent candidate Kent Bernbeck, who now plans to obtain 4,000 valid signatures to run as an independent for Treasurer. The petition deadline is September 1.