In the time of Covid, Nebraskans voted in record numbers in the General Election. Secretary of State Bob Evnen said Wednesday there were inevitable bumps in the road, but overall things went smoothly.
“Nebraskans owe a debt of gratitude to our county election officials and poll workers across the state, who have successfully and smoothly conducted our primary and general elections in the midst of a pandemic year. I also would like to acknowledge the dedication, commitment and hard work of the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s office.
All 933 of the polling places across the state were open and opened on time, he said.
“Lines formed in the morning across the state before the polls opened, but waiting times were kept to a minimum. Our election was conducted safely and securely at the polls. Our voters and poll workers were kept safe.”
This year’s election exceeded the previous turnout record in terms of total votes cast, which was in the 2016 Presidential General Election, by about 68,000 votes. The unofficial overall turnout was 934,766, nearly 74 percent.
Thirty-four counties had a turnout of more than 80%. And four counties had a turnout of 88%. That turnout will increase, also, as counties process approximately 20 or 25,000 early ballots that were dropped off and have not yet been processed, along with provisional ballots.
45,782 ballots were cast in all-mail-in precincts. Early ballots that were mailed in or dropped off totaled 436,269. 51,932 voters voted early at their county election commission or county clerk’s office.
Evnen says, however, that several aspects of this year’s voting will undergo scrutiny.
“Early balloting will require concerted attention to be sure going forward that ballots cast in this way are secure. Here’s an example. More than 25,000 early ballots that were sent to voters at their request were never returned. What happened to those ballots? We don’t know. 25,000 ballots is not an insignificant number.” Evnen called the missing ballots “sacred documents”. He said there is no evidence of anything wrong, but they should be investigated.
Voter registrations are up over the 2018 general election by about 48,000.
“This is not an unusual surge in voter registrations. It’s a pretty typical increase in registrations from general election to general election. We now have 1,267,366 registered voters in Nebraska.”
For the second time since the Nebraska law dividing electoral votes was passed in 1992, Nebraska will be splitting its electoral votes. Four electoral votes will go to President Trump, who won the statewide popular vote by 59 percent to 39 percent. The Second Congressional District electoral vote will go to former Vice President Biden, who won the popular vote in that district.
There were about 60,000 write-ins statewide for the U.S. Senate race, about seven percent of total votes cast. The number exceeds the five percent statutory threshold for manually counting write-ins in each county, so those write-ins will have to be counted. Evnen noted that there was an organized campaign by Democrats, urging voters to write in Preston Love, Jr., for the U.S. Senate.
State law provides for recounts in races where the separation between the candidates is one percent or less of the total votes cast for the top vote getter. There are four such races in the state at this point; three are Natural Resource District races and one is a Nebraska Public Power District race.
In one of these races, the winning margin was two votes.
“Two votes. So when Nebraskans hear me say, ‘Your vote counts,’ I really mean it.”
There are other races where the separation is between 1 and 2 percent. These could change as the rest of the early ballots and the provisional ballots are processed, though Evnen said it appears unlikely.
Candidates who are separated by more than the 1% automatic recount threshold can request a recount at their expense.
There is a two percent spread in the races for Legislative District 3 (Rick Holdcroft vs. Carol Blood) and Legislative District 49 (Andrew Lagrone v. Jen Day).
Evnen had high praise for voters and the State’s election workers. “Our representative democracy cannot survive and thrive without the active, informed participation of voters. Nebraskans can be proud of their participation in the elections of 2020.”