December 18, 2014

Gale disappointed not quite half of Nebraska voters turned out for election

Brent Martin (right) interviews Sec. of State John Gale

Brent Martin (right) interviews Sec. of State John Gale in his office/Photo courtesy of the Secretary of State’s Office

Secretary of State John Gale says he’s disappointed with the voter turnout for the General Election.

Gale says he’s pleased the 47.5% turnout this year beat the 43% turnout in 2010, but still disappointed turnout didn’t reach the 50% mark he had projected.

“I deeply appreciate everybody who did vote, don’t mistake me there, but we’re a state with a strong civic pride, strong patriotic pride, a strong sense of who we are and we really should be seeing a 60-65% turnout in these gubernatorial cycles,” Gale tells Nebraska Radio Network.

About 66 of the state’s 93 counties had a voter turnout of 50% or higher.

McPherson County in west-central Nebraska recorded the highest voter turnout with 72%. Thurston County in northeast Nebraska had the lowest, at 31%.

Presidential years attract more voters. In 2008, 71% of the state’s registered voters cast ballots. That percentage slipped a bit in 2012, when the turnout reached 29%.

State voter turnout fell just short of Gale’s projected 50% despite open races for governor and United States Senator as well as an increase in the state minimum wage on the ballot.

“I don’t know how much you could put on the banquet table to attract people to turn out and vote and yet its 47.4%,” Gale says. “So, I guess I am disappointed. But, I will say this, that the national average turnout was about 36%. That’s the lowest national average turnout since 1942.”

Gale says there will have to be a lot of analysis done before any decisions can be made to increase voter turnout.

About a quarter of the voters in the General Election cast ballots early, an increase in early voting over the last non-presidential election.

Gale says the tradition of going to the polls on Election Day remains strong here.

“In Nebraska, still, people love going to their polling site,” according to Gale. “When you have 23% who are early voters, that’s a nice percentage, but it’s certainly not a majority. In Colorado and in Washington, both had a majority, over 50% of people were voting early before they went statewide.”

About 18% of the votes cast in 2010 were cast early. Early voting increased in 2012, with 28% voting early.

Gov. Hieneman says voters sent a message

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman says voters sent a message to Washington in the 2014 elections.

Heineman, a Republican, says the big Republican wins throughout the United States should be taken as a very powerful statement.

“At the federal level, all across America, the American people sent a very powerful message: we want you to get something done at the federal level, quit arguing, start working together, and focus on our concerns; the economy, jobs, the education of our children,” Heineman tells reporters.

Heineman says he’s pleased Nebraska voters elected fellow Republicans Pete Ricketts as governor and Ben Sasse as United States Senator.

Heineman sees Ricketts as a good successor as governor.

“Who’s going to focus on additional tax relief, strengthening our education system, moving forward in a number of other areas,” according to Heineman. “I’m very pleased Ben Sasse got elected to the United States Senate. He is a bright, intelligent, caring individual and I believe he’s a rising star in the Republican Party.”

As for the result of the legislative races, it appears certain the Unicameral will be more conservative in 2015, according to Heineman.

“The legislature, it’s clear to me that it’s going to be more conservative. They heard loud and clear from Nebraskans; taxes are too high, property and income taxes especially and we need to do something about it,” Heineman says. “But the issues are the same. At the end of the day, it’s what we’ve done for ten years. It’s all about education and jobs.”


Sen. Johanns predicts big clashes between Obama and Congress (AUDIO)

Sen. Mike Johanns speaks to a constituent

Sen. Mike Johanns speaks to a constituent

Sen. Mike Johanns calls the results of the 2014 election “remarkable”, but predicts a real clash is coming between a Republican-controlled Congress and President Barack Obama.

Johanns says voters ushered in huge change, across the country. He points out that not only did Republicans gain control of the Senate and gain seats in the House, the party made gains in statehouses throughout the United States.

Johanns says he doesn’t believe voters fell in love with Republicans in 2014. He believes the elections were a referendum on Obama, and the results were a rebuke of the president’s policies.

Yet, Johanns says Obama hasn’t seemed to notice.

“I think he’s turned in the wrong direction, personally,” Johanns tells Nebraska Radio Network. “It’s only been, what a few days since we’ve had the election, but I think this next two years his attitude is, I’m going to do what I want to do.”

Johanns expects Obama to act alone on immigration and instruct agencies to issue more regulations.

“I don’t see a conciliatory tone at all. I think his attitude is combative, angry, and indifferent to what happened on Election Night,” Johanns says.

As for the Senate he is leaving, Johanns expects it to return to its traditional role under Republican controlled; bringing legislation to the floor for debate and amendment.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

AUDIO:  Full interview:  Brent Martin speaks with Sen. Mike Johanns about the elections, Ben Sasse, the relationship between President Obama and Congress. [13 min.]

Sec. of State Gale prefers geographic mandate for petitions (AUDIO)


Secretary of State John Gale

Nebraska’s top election authority believes the state initiative petition process needs to have a geographic component.

A federal judge has struck down the requirement that initiative petition organizers must gather signatures of at least five percent of the registered voters in 38 of the Nebraska’s 93 counties.

Secretary of State John Gale favors some sort of geographic requirement.

“There shouldn’t be a rush to allow all of the signatures to be gained from the largest or the top-three counties,” Gale tells Nebraska Radio Network. “There certainly needs to be something like, maybe, Congressional District distribution.”

Senior United States District Judge Joseph Bataillon threw out the geographic requirement in the state initiative petition process. The judge ruled the current requirement gave too much weight to rural voters over urban voters, violating the equal protection clause of the federal Constitution.

While Gale would like to see some geographic requirement in the process, he says even one based on Congressional districts could leave out much of western Nebraska.

“And so, if you said Congressional District distribution equally, you probably wouldn’t need to go west of Columbus to get a third of the signatures you need on an initiative petition,” according to Gale.

The state could appeal the ruling. The Attorney General’s office says it will talk with Gale about a possible appeal.

If an appeal isn’t made, Gale expects the Unicameral to consider a change in the law to accommodate the ruling.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

Ashford says he’s excited to get started in Congress (AUDIO)

Democrat Brad Ashford declares victory in 2nd Congressional District race

Democrat Brad Ashford declares victory in 2nd Congressional District race

Nebraska has a new face in its Congressional delegation, with a different party affiliation.

State Senator Brad Ashford pulled off a difficult feat on Election Day. Ashford, a Democrat, defeated an incumbent Republican Congressman.

“I’ve been asked several times was this a vote against Lee Terry,” Ashford tells Nebraska Radio Network. “I like to think that it was more a vote for change in direction.”

Ashford speculates the election might have turned on what Congress hasn’t done, its inability to resolve lingering issues.

Ashford received 81,720 votes, or 48.75% of the vote. Terry won 77,103 votes, according to the Nebraska Secretary of State unofficial total, or 45.99% of the vote. A third candidate, Libertarian Steve Laird, won 8,824, or 5.26% of the vote.

In an election that highly favored Republicans, Ashford grabbed a Congressional seat for Democrats. Still, Ashford won election into the United States House of Representatives controlled by Republicans. He says he plans to bring a bit of Nebraska independent politics to the nation’s capital. Though a Democrat, Ashford served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the officially non-partisan Unicameral.

As for a Republican dominated Nebraska Congressional delegation, Ashford doesn’t seem worried. He says he is good friends with Sen. Deb Fischer as well as Congressman Adrian Smith, both of whom served in the Unicameral. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry and Senator-elect Ben Sasse have already reached out to Ashford after the election. Ashford went to law school at Creighton University in Omaha with Sen. Mike Johanns.

Ashford, who just turned 65, says being elected to Congress is something he’s always wanted to do.

“It’s great. I’ve been educated in this process in Lincoln and I’m anxious to get started representing the people of this district,” Ashford says. “I’ve done that in Lincoln for a long time. It’s what gets me up in the morning and I’m excited.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]