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Campaigns using mailers to coordinate early voting efforts

April 25, 2018 GMT

The flyer is pretty standard, as far as campaign mailers go.

One side is a smiling Gov. Pete Ricketts standing arm-in-arm with Vice President Mike Pence, with a pledge by the Republican governor now seeking re-election to uphold gun rights in Nebraska. The other side depicts the incumbent during a pheasant hunt with more Second Amendment bona fides.

Underneath the glossy campaign advertisement, a pair of postcards encourage prospective Republican voters to vote by mail-in ballot in the May 15 primary election.

Voters can cut out the postcards, fill in their name, address and date of birth, and mail them back to the Pete Ricketts for Governor campaign office in Lincoln.

The mailing address used by the Ricketts campaign for the early voter requests drew a question from a Journal Star reader who asked what happens when those requests are directed to a political campaign and not a county election office or the secretary of state.

The simple answer? The campaigns get those cards to the proper election commissioner ASAP.

It’s both required by state statute and in the campaign’s best interest, party officials said.

Nebraska law prescribes a Class IV felony to anyone who hinders a registered voter from obtaining an early ballot. Obstructing an official delivering the ballots or counting the vote can also result in a felony charge.

Early ballot requests returned to the Nebraska GOP are promptly sorted by county, scanned, emailed and mailed physically to the requester’s county election office, said Kenny Zoeller, the party’s executive director.

Requests destined for Lancaster and Douglas counties are hand-delivered by Nebraska GOP staff daily, he added.

The Nebraska Democratic Party takes similar steps, said Jacob Denniston, the communications and party building director.

Both parties relish the opportunity to increase participation of their voters in the state’s elections.

Denniston said the Democrats have been successful informing voters who were unaware they could vote by mail, as well as providing new options to voters who can’t get off work or single parents who can’t find child care on Election Day.

“We also like that voters can receive a ballot and look up all the candidates and learn more about the races they hadn’t heard about in order to vote for who they feel would best represent them,” he said.

Zoeller said the Nebraska GOP has received positive feedback on its efforts to encourage greater participation in the state’s elections.

“The NEGOP has seen a strong rate of return, which is reflected in Republicans’ statewide early voting ballot request advantage,” he said.

While some voters have voiced concern that a delay in mail delivery might prevent their requests from being received before the May 4 deadline, Zoeller said the Republican Party will “make every effort to encourage voters to return their requests as soon as possible.”

Early ballot requests from parties or individual campaigns are nothing new in Nebraska, according to Lancaster County Election Commissioner Dave Shively.

Roughly 20 requests were returned to the election office by the state GOP on Monday, he said.

“Sometimes the cards are addressed to us, sometimes they are addressed to another location and brought to us,” he said. “Parties and candidates do this all the time.”