One side of the voter registration debate doesn't see any problem asking voters for identification to prove their eligibility. The other sees it as a manipulative move to discourage voting by certain constituencies, based on a largely nonexistant problem of voter fraud.
While that debate continues, there is little doubt that another change, to encourage voters to cast early ballots, is proving extremely popular.
Election officials are reporting record or near-record use of early ballots.
More than 17,000 Sarpy County voters have requested an early ballot, shattering all previous records for this early in the election process, said Wayne Bena, election commissioners.
Nearly 20,000 already have been requested in Lancaster County, compared to a total over a little more than 30,000 by the election day, according to the Lancaster County Election commissioner.
In Douglas County, 3,676 people have voted in person, 54,774 requests for ballots have been submitted and more than 20,000 have already been returned, already exceeding the total of the 2008 general election. Some 27 percent of all Douglas County voters voted early, and this year that number is expected to climb to between 35 and 40 percent of the total vote, according to an election official.
Red Willow County Clerk Paulette Gerver said her office had processed 432 early voters' ballots by Tuesday and another 100 to go out in today's mail. Of those early voters, only 77 have voted in the office, which is less time consuming for the office and less expensive for the taxpayer.
Over the last three general elections, there were 478 early voters in 2010, 920 in 2008 and 715 in 2006, and she expects those numbers to be exceeded this year.
The sample ballot can be downloaded from the Election Commissioner's page on the Red Willow County website, http://www.co.red-willow.ne.us/election...., so the voter can be prepared to vote early.
She noted that not all of the races or candidates listed will appear on all ballots in the county, or in the manner published, as some candidates are elected only by district and some candidate races require rotation. By statute the first day that the sample ballot can be published in the newspaper is Oct. 21, and it will be published in the McCook Daily Gazette on Monday, Oct. 22.
Secretary of State John Gale expects the surge in early voting to portend a high turnout for the No. 6 election. "While convenience is a factor, early voting shows people have been paying attention and are ready to vote," he said.
* Registered voters can make requests until 4 p.m. Oct. 31 for early voting ballots to be mailed. Nov. 5 is the deadline for in-person early voting at county election offices for registered voters.
* The close of polls on Nov. 6 is the deadline for the return of early voting ballots to county election offices, including ballots returned by mail.
"Early voting mail-in ballots have been shown to have as high as a 4 percent rejection rate when envelopes aren't signed, or signed by someone else, or sent in a wrong envelope, or returned due to no postage. So, follow the simple rules, get it done right, and make your ballot count," Gale sid.
Early voting procedures make it easier than ever to participate in our democracy's most important activity.