Nebraska campaigns adjust to early voters

Terry leads White in fundraising

Published Monday, September 13, 2010: By Margery A. Beck, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

With early voting allowing Nebraska residents to cast their ballots more than a month before Election Day, candidates are finding ways to target those early birds through mailings, ads and door-to-door efforts.

People have been able to request absentee ballots for decades, but only since the state law changed in 1999 have they been allowed to submit their ballots early without giving a reason. The number of early ballots cast has soared since.

"Every campaign should have a good early vote program," said Dave Boomer, campaign manager for the 2nd District GOP incumbent, Rep. Lee Terry. "If they don't, the manager should be sued for malpractice."

Campaigns receive updated lists of registered voters, said Dave Phipps, an election commissioner for Douglas County. The lists also tell the campaigns who has requested absentee ballots, allowing them to target their mailings to arrive well before Election Day.

Campaign staffs also can use the lists to solicit donations and volunteers -- even cross off early voters from automated campaign call and door-to-door lists. Campaigns have urged voters in recent years to vote early, Phipps said.

"It's a campaign strategy that can work," Phipps said. "If you can convince somebody to request an early voting ballot, that's probably going to be a vote for you."

Campaign managers for Nebraska's 2nd House District race acknowledged that early voting plays into their strategy.

Boomer, campaign manager for the 2nd District Republican Rep. Lee Terry, said he tracks early voting trends to target voters.

Ian Russell, campaign manager for Democratic challenger Tom White, said he has a plan to get White's voters to the polls either on Election Day or earlier, although he declined to detail that plan.

Before the law changed, an average of 3,000 to 5,000 people cast early ballots in elections in Douglas County -- the state's most populous with more than 500,000 people. In the 2008 general election, with full-fledged early voting allowed, that had skyrocketed to 60,000.

All county election offices in Nebraska will accept early voting applications up to 120 days before a statewide primary or general election. Requests for an early ballot must be submitted by 4 p.m. on the Wednesday before Election Day.

Early voting ballots are either sent by mail or are available to be picked up at county election offices 35 days before the election. That's also the first day ballots are sent to nonmilitary stateside applicants.


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