LINCOLN — Early voting is at a record pace in Nebraska's three largest counties, which may help incumbents as well as front-runners.
In Douglas County, 35 percent to 40 percent of all votes might be cast before election day, Nov. 6, predicted Election Commissioner Dave Phipps.
That compares to the last presidential election in 2008, when 27 percent of voters cast ballots early.
Requests for early ballots are also at a record pace in Sarpy and Lancaster Counties.
The increase in early voting continues a trend of voters seeking more convenient ways to participate in elections, said Paul Landow, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Landow said it forces candidates to campaign earlier and more aggressively, and typically helps incumbents, who have better name recognition, as well as front-runners in races.
That includes Deb Fischer, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate who led former U.S. Sen. and Nebraska Gov. Bob Kerrey by 10 percentage points in The World-Herald poll released three weeks ago.
Nebraskans could fill out a ballot as early as Oct. 1 this year by requesting an early ballot via mail or fax, or by stopping by a county election office to cast an early vote.
In Douglas County, applications for early ballots were mailed to all registered voters this year due to controversy sparked earlier this year by closing some polling places. The mailers, Phipps said, probably increased the number of early voters, though he predicted the county would have set a record anyway.
Secretary of State John Gale said that the surge in early voting probably signals a higher turnout for the election overall.
In Nebraska, registered voters can make requests for early voting ballots until 4 p.m., Oct. 31. Nov. 5 is the deadline for registered voters to fill out early ballots in person at county election offices.
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