Secretary of State John Gale, the state’s top election official, worries about current trends in our political discourse.
This is the conclusion of our two-part series.
Gale says a robust democracy requires at least half of the registered voters to cast ballots. During the mid-terms, 58% turned out, one of the highest voter turnouts in state history.
“You get discouraged and then the voters surprise you and they show that they do have a keen interest in participating on our democracy,” Gale tells Nebraska Radio Network during an interview in his office.
Gale says his goal as Secretary of State has always been to increase voter registration, then encourage voters to go to the polls. Voter registration is at an all-time high in Nebraska and early voting recorded the highest total in state history during the mid-terms.
While encouraged by registrations and participation, Gale worries about the information voters are relying on to inform their decisions. He is especially concerned about the impact of social media.
“People become so motivated by fear or by anger or by false information or at least what I call inaccurate information and they make judgments based upon that really very limited emotional response,” Gale says.
Gale says he understands people are busy, with a lot going on in their lives, but he insists they must be informed to make proper decisions. That, according to Gale, includes going to sources which give both sides of an issue, participating in meetings and public hearings, and engaging in civic activities.
Two programs Gale created while in office bring back fond memories. One, aimed at elementary school children, had him and others in the office dress up in period clothes and enact various parts of Nebraska history. Before it ended, Gale made presentations to approximately 30,000 4th Graders. A second program convened eight diplomatic conferences which brought leaders from around the globe to Nebraska, ending only when the 2008 recession hit, drying up the money available from a private foundation and businesses which funded the program.
Aside from elections, the Nebraska Secretary of State serves as Protocol Officer, Business Services manager, and state Records Administrator as well as on on five boards and commissions.
Gale says the Secretary of State’s office kept him as deeply engaged as practicing law in North Platte. First appointed in late 2000, Gale won election to the office in 2002 and re-election ever since, until deciding to retire at the age of 78.
“So, I leave with a great sense of satisfaction. I think I’ve upheld my oath of office and my passionate commitment to the rule of law and I hope the public feels that I have served them well, but I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:55]