Election officials in Nebraska and Iowa have been extra busy keeping up with the growing early voting as Nov. 6 nears.
Sarpy, Douglas, Lancaster and Pottawattamie Counties all continue to process thousands of ballots every week from registered voters taking advantage of early voting. And all four counties remain on pace for new milestones.
“Everyone is really trending pretty high,” Sarpy County Election Commissioner Wayne Bena said.
On Wednesday, Sarpy County broke its 2008 early-voting record. So far, more than 21,000 Sarpy registered voters have either voted or requested an early ballot.
Bena expects 4,000 to 5,000 more will take advantage of early voting before the election.
“It really is a more convenient way to vote,” Bena said.
“You can stop in and get a ballot and then go home and sit down at your kitchen table to vote. If you're not comfortable with one of the races, you can stop and research it, and come back to it and vote.”
Nebraska voters have until 4 p.m. Wednesday to send in an early ballot request to their county election commissioner. Iowans have until 5 p.m. Nov. 2.
Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps said his office has received more than 30,000 early ballots back — out of about 63,000 ballots requested.
Phipps predicts that Nebraska's largest county may surpass 85,000 early ballots for this year's election, which would beat the 2008 county total of about 60,000.
However, both Phipps and Bena agreed that record-breaking early vote totals may not necessarily translate into record-breaking voter turnout in the general election.
In 2008, Sarpy County had a modern-day record of 75 percent voter turnout.
Bena predicts overall turnout in Sarpy County will come in closer to 65 to 70 percent. That would resemble the percentage turnout from the 2000 and 2004 presidential races.
Phipps said Douglas County's turnout was nearly 73 percent in 2008.
This year, the overall turnout may be closer to 70 percent, he said.
“Obviously, early voting is very popular, but there does not seem to be the level of excitement as 2008,” Phipps said.
Lancaster County Election Commissioner David Shively has processed about 27,000 early ballot requests, still behind the 30,500 early ballots his office handled previously.
But Shively expects this year's early vote total to reach 32,000 to 35,000.
Smaller counties also are on pace to exceed their 2008 early-vote totals.
According to the Nebraska Secretary of State's Office, Washington, Saunders and Gage Counties have surpassed or are on pace to shatter their 2008 voting marks.
In Iowa, the Pottawattamie County election staff is processing about 800 to 1,000 early ballots per day, said Kristi Everett, deputy auditor of elections.
Her county has already received 17,000 early-voting requests, besting the 2008 mark of 15,000. “I definitely think we will hit 20,000 or 25,000,” she said. “There is a big push for getting early voting.”
In Iowa, both political parties have made a major push since September to encourage people to vote early, said Chad Olsen, director of communications for the Iowa Secretary of State's Office.
In 2008, about 545,000 Iowans voted early. Iowa this year may hit 550,000 to 600,000 early votes, he said.
“We do know we are outpacing what we did in 2008,” Olsen said. “Voting early is very convenient. ... With Iowa a swing state, that's really amped up the action.”