December 19, 2014

Secretary of State Gale predicts 30% turnout for primary

The top state election official predicts about a third of Nebraska’s registered voters will cast ballots in the May 13th primary election.

Secretary of State John Gale expects the crowded Republican fields for United States Senate and governor to drive turnout beyond the normal 25% turnout for primary elections.

“If you look at each party individually, we’re saying that the Republican Party is going to be turning out a pretty strong 44% or higher for this primary,” Gale tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “And that does reflect, of course, the strength of the gubernatorial and US Senate race.”

Four Republicans have entered the primary to succeed Senator Mike Johanns, who is retiring. They are Midland University President Ben Sasse, former state Treasurer Shane Osborn, Pinnacle Bancorp President Sid Dinsdale, and Omaha lawyer Bart McLeay.

Six Republicans have entered the primary to succeed Governor Dave Heineman, who cannot run due to term limits. They are Attorney General Jon Bruning, Omaha executive Pete Ricketts, Auditor Mike Foley, state Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, state Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege, and Omaha tax attorney Bryan Slone.

Gale expects about 20% of the registered Democrats to vote in the primary with 12% turnout among non-partisan voters.

Gale says 54,000 Nebraska voters requested early ballots, but only about half of them have been returned.

“Which means there are quite a number of people still sitting on those ballots, waiting I suppose to see of any late-breaking news, any significant trends that suddenly emerge,” Gale says.

In 2012, with a hotly contested race for United States Senate on the Republican ballot, 26% of registered Nebraska voters turned out. The 2006 Republican primary for governor in which Dave Heineman defeated Tom Osborne drew a 35% turnout.

Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this article.