Nebraska: What To Expect On Election Night

While Republicans have a firm hold on Nebraska’s state government, the state’s Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District has morphed into a swing district in the last 15 years and is the state’s only consistently competitive U.S. House seat.

It is currently held by Republican Rep. Don Bacon, a retired Air Force brigadier general who is seeking his fourth term in the face of a challenge from Democrat Tony Vargas. Vargas is a state lawmaker from Omaha who has touted his experience as a former teacher and member of the Omaha Public Schools Board.

Polls have shown the two locked in a tight race, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named it one of its top competitive House districts that are either open or held by Republicans.

State Republicans have twice redrawn the district’s boundaries in an attempt to help their party’s candidates, in part because of embarrassment that under Nebraska’s unique Electoral College rules, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama won the 2nd District vote in 2008 and Democrat Joe Biden did the same in 2020.

Maine is the only other state that has eschewed a winner-take-all approach and allows its electoral votes to be split between candidates.

Republicans were expected to have less trouble keeping control of Nebraska’s two other congressional districts.

Republicans maintain strong control of statewide offices in Nebraska, which hasn’t elected a Democrat as governor since 1994. But Democrats are hoping to retain enough legislative seats in the officially nonpartisan, one-house legislature to maintain filibuster pressure on the GOP’s agenda. That agenda includes a plan to pass a near total abortion ban, as other Republican-controlled states have done in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last June.

Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:

ELECTION NIGHT

The last polls close at 9 p.m. ET. The majority of the state is in the Central Time Zone and closes at 8 p.m. CT.; 19 counties are in the Mountain Time Zone and close at 7 p.m. MT.

HOW NEBRASKA VOTES

Nebraska conducts in-person voting on Election Day at poll sites. Write-in votes are permitted in both primary and general elections.

Early voting is allowed, but an application is required — eligibility is not determined at the time of voting. The absentee voting period runs 30 days to the day before Election Day.

People who are incarcerated, on parole or on probation are barred from voting. Persons convicted of a felony are automatically permitted to vote two years after completion of their sentence for all convictions except treason. If a voter has not confirmed their address and has not voted in two consecutive general elections, they are removed.

Douglas, Saunders and Sarpy, the counties that include and surround Omaha, should be watched closely. These are relatively populous, and voting patterns are shifting such that Democratic candidates are becoming competitive.

DECISION NOTES

AP will tabulate 32 races in the Nebraska general election: Governor, U.S. House Districts 1-3, treasurer, attorney general, and auditor, three ballot measures and 22 state legislative races.

Counties may begin counting no earlier than 24 hours before poll opening at the discretion of the county clerk. Historically, most counties count on Election Day both before and after poll close and finish the count by the end of the night.

The AP may call a statewide or U.S. House race in which the margin between the top two candidates is 0.5% or less, if we determine the lead is too large for a recount to change the outcome.

The AP will not call down-ballot races on election night if the margin between the top two candidates is less than 2% or if the leading candidate is within 2% of the 50% runoff threshold. The AP will revisit those races later in the week to confirm there aren’t enough outstanding votes left to count that could change the outcome.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW?

Q: WHAT DID WE LEARN FROM THE PRIMARY?

A: Nebraska has dealt well with the increase in advance voting, and most results were delivered by the end of election night. The populous counties around Omaha delivered results later than many of the smaller counties.

Q: WHAT’S CHANGED SINCE THE PANDEMIC ELECTION OF 2020?

A: Absentee voting increased dramatically in 2020. In both the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, absentee ballots accounted for 26 percent of votes overall. In 2020, absentee ballots spiked to 56 percent of the total. The change in pattern did not materially impact the state’s ability to provide results.

Q: WHAT DO TURNOUT AND ADVANCE VOTE LOOK LIKE?

A: As of October 26. 104,766 advance ballots have been cast.

Q: HOW LONG DOES COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?

A: Counting is typically swift and efficient. About half of Nebraska’s counties are “one and done” and historically post the vote total in a single update on election night. Most races are typically callable by the end of the night.

Q: WHAT HAPPENS AFTER TUESDAY?

A: Some statewide races, such as the hotly contested race for the 2nd Congressional district, may not be callable by the end of the night if results in some counties are incomplete, or if the margin does not put them in a callable status.

QUOTABLE

“You don’t lie about your position unless you know it’s going to cost you votes.” — Omaha state Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, a staunch supporter of abortion access, addressing reports that her anti-abortion Republican challenger, Christian Mirch, has gone door to door in her district telling abortion access supporters that he and Cavanaugh have essentially the same views on abortion

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Check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections. Follow AP’s coverage of the elections at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections