Voter registration breaks record, but average turnout expected in Madison County

November 8, 2018

MADISON — There’s an 8-point spread between the percentage of voters likely to turn out in Madison County and those predicted to cast ballots statewide.

That’s according to Madison County Clerk Nancy Scheer and Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale.

Scheer said she expects an average number of mid-term votes at about 48 percent of registered voters. This would be similar to previous mid-term elections — the 2014 year saw 45 percent, and 2010 saw 46 percent.

Gale, however, announced last week an anticipated voter turnout across the state of 56 percent.

A new record number of registered voters was reached in Nebraska this year of 1,219,644, exceeding the previous record set in the 2016 general election.

As for early voters, there has been a steady increase in the number of people choosing to cast their ballot before Election Day in Madison County.

“In the 2014 gubernatorial election, 1,140 early voting ballots were issued. Through the close of business on Oct. 31, there was a total of 1,210 early ballots issued,” Scheer said.

Gale said Nebraska voters have requested early ballots in record numbers for a mid-term election, with 213,791 voters having requested to vote by mail, in person or who reside in an all-mail precinct.

Those numbers were expected to rise through Monday, as early voting in election offices ended.

Those wishing to vote early in person at their county election office must have done so by close of business on Monday, and all early ballots had to be received by the close of the polls Tuesday to be counted.

While there are no contested races for county officials on the general election ballot, there are contested races for the Norfolk City Council in Ward 2 and Ward 4, as well as city councils in Battle Creek, Madison and Newman Grove.

Four seats on the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District board are being contested, as are three seats on the Battle Creek Public Schools board of education.

As for hot-button races in the area, Scheer said, “the race for mayor of Madison seems to be getting attention in the community of Madison.”

Additionally, the race for U.S. senator between incumbent Deb Fischer of Valentine and Democratic challenger Jane Raybould of Lincoln, as well as the Medicaid expansion ballot issue, are seeing interest at both the state and federal levels, Scheer said.

Scheer said she expected Madison County votes to be scanned in on Tuesday by 10:30 p.m., similar to prior years. There will be nine people assisting her at the courthouse on election night.

“Staff members and volunteers will assist messengers who are returning ballot boxes and supplies, preparing ballots for scanning, scanning ballots, answering the phone and posting results to several websites,” Scheer said.

There will be 118 people who are scheduled to work at various polling sites across Madison County on Election Day.

Following election night, provisional ballots will be processed in preparation for canvassing. Once the canvassing board completes its auditing procedures, final votes will be certified.

As Scheer is not seeking re-election for Madison County clerk, this will be her last year working on Election Day. She said that while serving in her office during election years is challenging, it is also rewarding.

“There have been many changes in the election process during my years of service, including many law changes that have enhanced the election process,” Scheer said.

When she first took office, the county was voting with multiple paper ballots, with individual ballots for federal, state, county and local races. At that time, ballots were hand-tallied by voters who worked late into the night and early-morning hours to finish counting, she said.

“Messengers would bring election returns to the courthouse as late as Wednesday afternoon before the voting method was changed to a punch card voting system, which was used from 1978 through 1988. In 1990, Madison County changed to the optical scan ballot, which is counted with scanning equipment,” Scheer said.

Today, the most popular option to complete voter registration is through an electronic process, while in the past it was done during community registration drives or by voters coming into the county clerk’s office.

While the last week prior to Election Day is hectic, Scheer said she would miss at least one aspect of it.

“I will miss all the people who volunteer to work on Election Day at the polling places. I have been blessed to work with many wonderful people through the election process. Without all the great volunteers, having a successful election would be impossible,” Scheer said.

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