As the general election date of Nov. 3 nears and more and more people are voting early, the League of Women Voters is there as a nonpartisan resource for voters.
The 2020 election cycle marks the first time the League voter resource website vote411.org has included information about local races throughout greater Nebraska.
Several deadlines pertaining to the general election are coming up.
Friday is the last day to register or update voter information online. The deadline for in-person registration at the county clerk’s office is Oct. 23.
Applications for early ballots must be turned in by 6 p.m. Oct. 23.
Nebraska League co-president Dianne Bystrom of Plattsmouth moved to Nebraska in 2018 after retiring from Iowa State University, where she directed the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics. Catt was the U.S. founder of the League of Women Voters.
A decision was made in 2019 in the Nebraska League of Women Voters organization to invest more funds into and build up the state infrastructure of vote411.org.
“It was not only looking forward to the 2020 election, but also the fact that we really just wanted to expand our education of voters in the state,” Bystrom said.
Douglas and Sarpy counties long have had a robust Vote411 program, Bystrom said. Meanwhile, the rest of the state only had a minimal Vote411 program that just looked at national and statewide races and issues.
The Nebraska League also has worked to boost the presence of its website and social media.
Bystrom credited voter services co-directors Caryl Guisinger and Toni Monette for development of the statewide Vote411 infrastructure.
Outside of Douglas and Sarpy counties, where the response rate is typically more than 70%, Bystrom said the statewide candidate response for the 2020 primary election was 54%.
She said while there is room to improve when it comes to candidate response, the national organization was pleased with that 54% response rate. In some states it was about 30% the first time the program went statewide.
“We had a really successful rollout prior to the primary, and of course it was complicated by the fact of COVID,” Bystrom said, referring to the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic. “The other thing that happened was because so many Nebraskans were voting by early absentee ballots prior to the primary we think there was just more of a reliance on nonpartisan voter guides.”
Based on feedback the League’s statewide and Omaha offices received, Bystrom said, there weren’t many concerns about early voting during the primary election.
The League offices have received quite a few calls recently about the mail, dropping off ballots and voter intimidation, however.
“I think we’re in a different narrative now that people are concerned about it,” she said.
The League is working to fight misinformation, Bystrom said.
In addition to information about candidates and ballot issues, Vote411.org includes many additional resources, including the voter check website available through the Nebraska Secretary of State website through which voters can track the processing of their ballot.
She said the League has worked well not only with the Secretary of State’s Office but also local election officials.
“They are public servants and want the process to work,” she said.