November 21, 2014

Gale hopes voter turnout bucks trend today (AUDIO)

Nebraskans go to the polls today. At least, a fraction of the registered voters in Nebraska go to the polls today; primary election day.

Secretary of State John Gale declines to make a prediction on voter turn-out.

“Well, it’s like throwing water on a party,” Gales tells Nebraska Radio Network. “I didn’t want to, in effect, cause a lower turnout by predicting a lower turn-out. Sometimes, predictions become self-fulfilling prophecies.”

Gale has become increasingly concerned about low voter turnout in statewide primary elections. According to the Secretary of State’s office, voter turnout has been under 25% in four of the last five primary elections. Only the 2006 Republican primary for governor bucked the trend. In that race, approximately 35% of the registered voters decided the race in which Dave Heineman defeated Tom Osborne. Heineman went on to win in the general election.

A similar contest could coax more Nebraska voters to cast ballots this year. The Republican primary for United States Senate has attracted six candidates. The top three, Attorney General Jon Bruning, state Treasurer Don Stenberg and state Senator Deb Fischer, have all spent large sums of money. Interest in the race seems to be rising as the public opinion polls indicate it is getting tighter.

Pat Flynn, Spencer Zimmerman and Sharyn Elander also are on the Republican ballot for U.S. Senate.

Gale adds that all Republican Congressional races and all but one of the Democratic Congressional races are contested. For the Legislature, 10 of the 26 districts have contested races with more than two candidates (only two candidates will advance). University of Nebraska Regent Districts 3, 5 and 8 have contested races where candidates will be eliminated.

Nebraska also holds its presidential primary today, though most of the drama has been drained from the race. Still, Republicans will be able to voice their preference among candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich. Romney made a brief campaign stop in Omaha last week where he picked up about $800,000 in a fundraiser for his campaign for president. President Barack Obama is the only Democrat on the ballot.

Gale offers a few tips for voters today:

  • Check voter registration and your polling place either with your local election authority or by going to www.votercheck.necvr.ne.gov <http://www.votercheck.necvr.ne.gov>.
  • If you forgot to change your address, go to your old polling place where you will be required to cast a provisional ballot.
  • Prepare before you go to the polls. Sample ballots can be obtained in most newspapers and posted on county websites. You can take the sample ballot with you to the polling place.
  • Don’t campaign at the poll, which includes wearing campaign T-shirts or buttons. If you have a car with a bumper sticker proudly displaying your favored candidate, it must be parked at least 200 feet of a polling site.
  • Newly registered voters might have to provide identification.
  • If registered without a political party affiliation, you will receive the nonpartisan ballot. In addition, nonpartisan voters may request a Republican Party or Democratic Party ballot for U.S. Senate and House races, or they may request a full Libertarian Party ballot.

The Secretary of State’s office reports that statewide voter registration for the primary election totals 1,136,402. Registration breakdown by political affiliation is: Republican Party, 547,393; Democratic Party, 368,144; nonpartisan, 218,802; and other parties, 2,063.

Polls open at 8am Central Daylight Time and 7am Mountain Daylight Time. They close at 8pm and 7pm.

AUDIO: Brent Martin talks with Secretary of State John Gale about the Primary Election. [12 min.]