A committee created to gain public feedback about Douglas County polling place changes met Wednesday in private but made no decisions.
Election Commissioner Dave Phipps said he closed the meeting so committee members could speak freely.
“We want a frank and open discussion,” he said.
Phipps' decision to close the meeting sparked criticism.
“I think it's important that the advisory committee that was established to create transparency is actually transparent to the public,” said Adam Morfeld, executive director of Nebraskans for Civic Reform, a voting rights group.
Phipps formed the committee after a controversy erupted over his decision to close nearly half the county's polling places. He announced the closings in March and people protested, saying the move would hinder voting among the elderly and the poor.
He later said he should have solicited public comment and created the advisory committee. He agreed to reopen some polling places before the November general election.
Phipps has no plans to hold public hearings before he decides which polling places to reopen. He said he'll publish any resulting proposals on the Election Commission website, votedouglascounty.org, and the public can offer comment there.
“There will be ample time and opportunity for public discussion and input on what these folks come up with,” Phipps said.
The committee is made up of one person from each of Douglas County's seven County Board districts, nominated by the board member serving each district.
Representatives from the Republican and Democratic Parties also attended.
Committee members said the meeting was pleasant and Phipps outlined the legal constraints of redistricting that required him to redraw precinct lines.
The panel plans to meet again next week and give any resulting information to Phipps by the end of June.
Morfeld, a frequent critic of the closings made by Phipps, said residents should be able to hear what the committee members say on their behalf. Members of his group had planned to sit in on the meeting, he said.
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