Voter participation: How does Nebraska stack up?

How can we make our elections even better, and have Nebraska move up in terms of participation? A new report’s state-by-state analysis of election policies has a few suggestions.

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We know that Nebraska’s 2020 vote set several state records – in particular, the number of ballots cast and the number of early ballots cast were all-time highs. But how did Nebraska compare with other U.S. states and the District of Columbia? A new report shows that, amid record-shattering vote totals around the United States, the Cornhusker State held steady.

Nebraska finished No. 21 in terms of voter participation, with 69.9 percent of voting-age Nebraskans casting ballots in November. The report, America Goes to the Polls 2020 from Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project, looks at state-by-state participation and how different election policies affect turnout. The state also ranked 21st in 2016.

Our 966,920 total ballots in 2020 were more than 100,000 more than in 2016, according to the report. In 2016, 64 percent of voting-age Nebraskans cast ballots. The big story of 2020, of course, was the massive shift to early voting, whether via mail-in ballots or in-person – 539,330 of Nebraska’s total votes were cast before Election Day.

Minnesota was tops, with participation of 80 percent. Oklahoma was last, with 55 percent.

How can we make our elections even better, and have Nebraska move up in terms of participation? The report’s state-by-state analysis of election policies bears a few suggestions:

  • Half of the top states proactively mailed ballots to all registered voters. While Nebraska did not mail ballots to all registered voters, it did send early mail-in ballot request forms to everyone who was registered to vote in the 2020 May primary and again in the general election in November.
  • Six among the top 10 states that saw voter participation increases from 2016 mailed ballots to all voters for the first time.
  • Eight of the top 10 participation states had same-day registration. Overall, states with same-day registration had an average turnout of 5 percentage points higher than states that didn’t. While nearly half of U.S. states now offer same-day registration, Nebraska has yet to offer this option.

To read the full state-by-state analysis, click here. And you may remember that Civic Nebraska conducted its own postmortem of the 2020 election in Nebraska, which arrived at many of the same conclusions as this national report. Find our 2020 election report here.

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