ELECTION 2022: Voter registration deadlines approaching as Nebraska primary nears

Douglas County elections official notes some changing registration to vote in contentious Republican gubernatorial election
WOWT 6 News Live at 6:30
Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 6:14 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Voters are already casting their ballots for the May primary, and the lobby at the Douglas County Election Commissioners’ Office is all set up for early voting.

Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse says voters are dropping off ballots at a pretty good pace.

“We’ve got about 82,000 requests in. Of those 82,000 ballots we mailed out, we’ve got about 24,000 back, so that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of the high 20%,” Kruse said. “It does seem a little slower than the presidential election; but of course, that’s always our big election.”

People are already driving up to drop off early ballots at the drop boxes — some are even walking up. Voters tell 6 News that voting from home gives them time to study the ballot before making their mark.

“I can go through and check out the candidates and vote for who I think is the best person rather than guessing when I go to the polls,” Roy Glup said.

“I do a little research — I did this morning a little research about all the candidates and everything, marked my ballot came, and dropped it in,” Deb Prestage said.

Not only are voters casting ballots early, Kruse said some are changing their party affiliations. He said Nebraska’s hotly contested governor’s race on the Republican side is attracting Democrats and Independents to the primary.

“From what we hear at the counter, that’s been the reason that most people have indicated they want to switch parties is they are able to vote on in that governor race in the Republican side.”

Kruse said there are hundreds of voters who are changing their party affiliation.

“About 600 votes since the first of March, so from March 1 through April 15 — and the vast majority have been from nonpartisan or the Democratic party switching to the Republican party presently to vote for governor. Now, that’s a guess on our part,” Kruse said.

That guess is a pretty good one. 6 News caught Kathleen Mackie right after she changed her party affiliation from nonpartisan to Republican.

“The news has been horrible,” she said. “I think it’s all been character assignation — I don’t like that, and I’m pretty well disgusted with everything. So I wanted a say — just a little say.”

“I would assume most of those people who are registering are not particularly enamored with somebody like Charles Herbster its going to be more likely that’s going to increase support for candidates such as Jim Pillen and especially Brett Lindstrom I would think,” said John Hibbing, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

He said he believes the recent controversy on the Republican side of the ballot is drawing a lot of attention from voters and Herbster’s outcome could depend on how much weight his big name supporter carries.

“Particularly with Charles Herbster, the recent allegations of sexual assault by multiple women with multiple witnesses, so he was one of their leading candidates, so that’s going to be a big hit for him,” Hibbing said. “Although on the plus side, he’s got Donald Trump coming to the state to campaign for him, so we’ll have to see how that plays out.”

Friday is the last day to register to vote online, through the county drop boxes, or by mail. You can register in person at the Election Commission office through May 2.

Anyone with questions can call 404-444-8683 or visit the county elections office website.

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