Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale says it has been a topsy-turvy year when it comes to voter turnout across the state.
Gale says lower turnout has usually been the norm in larger counties such as Lancaster, Douglas and Sarpy, and it’s very difficult to say why four of the 10 counties with the lowest turnout this week were in the Panhandle, including Scotts Bluff County with the third lowest percentage in the state.
“It just may be that people decided that their vote wasn’t necessary,” Gale tells KNEB News, “It’s never true, every vote counts, every vote is necessary, but they may not have seen something that really sparked their interest out here.” He notes that even at 44%, turnout in Scotts Bluff County was actually right at the historical statewide average for mid-term elections.
Gale says Medicaid expansion was the driver in the eastern part of the state, while voting by mail seemed to be a significant factor for counties such as Morrill and Garden, where turnout in both was among the highest in Nebraska.
Gale says the state’s election equipment is aging, and the need to replace it could prompt state lawmakers to allow even more voting by mail in the future. “Campaigns and political parties like the way they campaign in the big cities now, and by mail would change that dramatically,” says Gale. “But allow those counties to pick and choose the rural precincts because every county has them. I think that would be a nice balance that could be achieved that would save money for both counties and the state.”
Nebraska’s election equipment was upgraded in 2004, and Gale says it may not make it to the 2020 presidential election, so lawmakers dealing with the issue will likely be looking for ways to limit such an expense.