There was no truce on Election Day.
Lost voters, dirty tricks and a stuck ballot or two kept political parties campaigning, spinning and pontificating to the end Tuesday.
And brisk throngs of Democrats, Republicans and independents waded through it all to the polls.
Voting started early and finished strong, but turnout didn’t match the pace set during the 2008 presidential election.
Statewide turnout across Nebraska hit 66.96 percent. Secretary of State John Gale had predicted 71 percent of registered voters would cast ballots. In the 2008 presidential election, voter turnout was 70 percent.
In Douglas County, nearly 66 percent of voters turned out. Election Commissioner Dave Phipps expected 68 percent turnout, down from 72 percent four years ago. In Sarpy County, 67.5 percent of registered voters cast ballots. County Election Commissioner Wayne Bena expected 70 percent turnout, compared with 75 percent in 2008.
Lancaster County turnout was 68.7 percent. The prediction was 71 percent.
In Pottawattamie County, turnout was 64.9 percent. Officials expected a 70 percent turnout, which would have matched the 2008 total.
Phipps said there were a few glitches typical of an election that attracts the majority of registered voters, but balloting generally appeared to go smoothly.
Nine voters at the Skutt Catholic High School polling place in southwest Omaha received a ballot with the wrong school district election before poll workers caught the mistake, Phipps said.
Democrats alleged that already-filled-in ballots were handed out at two Omaha polling places, but Phipps said the problem was that one voter mistakenly received a privacy sleeve with a ballot that hadn’t fallen into the ballot box.
Phipps said the marked ballot was deposited into the ballot box, and the voter was given a fresh ballot, which was also deposited.
Democratic officials said there were “ballot irregularities.”
But Phipps said there had been none: “Everyone’s vote was counted.”
Democrats said the questioned ballot had been marked for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Republican U.S. Rep. Lee Terry of Omaha.
Vince Powers of Lincoln, the incoming Nebraska Democratic Party chairman, said he didn’t know the facts of the allegation, but they were part of a larger “credibility issue” in Phipps’ office.
Powers cited Phipps’ decision to close and consolidate dozens of polling places for last spring’s primary election. Phipps modified the decision after the election, and all county voters received new information cards with their updated polling location.
Wednesday, a group of organizations and State Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha called for a state investigation of Phipps’ office and the drafting of a bill that allowed consolidation of polling places.
The group Nebraskans for Civic Reform was among those organizations, which also included the Nebraska ACLU, Black Men United of Omaha and the Latino Center of the Midlands.
There was confusion Tuesday among thousands of voters about where to vote. Phipps estimated that 90 percent of the 4,000 to 5,000 calls to his office Tuesday were from people wondering where to vote. He said the percentage was roughly the same as in any presidential election.
Voting was frustrating for some.
Eulla Mitchell went to vote at Dundee Presbyterian Church, and in the minutes she was there, she was one of at least a half-dozen people who were told that they were at the wrong place. A voter information card that Mitchell received in March listed the church as her polling place, but the site was later moved. Mitchell said she didn’t receive a card with updated information.
Mitchell said poll workers told her to call the election office to clear up the matter. She tried, but the office line was busy and she gave up. She later found her voting place and cast her ballot.
“All’s well that ends well,” she said.
At least 10 percent of voters at one polling place were told that they were at the wrong site, according to Nebraskans for Civic Reform. Hundreds of confused voters had little success in getting through to the election office by telephone, the group said. Phipps said his office’s 33 phone lines were busy all day.
The Nebraska Republican Party condemned recorded telephone messages to Douglas County GOP voters that provided misinformation about returning early-vote ballots.
Jordan McGrain, the party’s executive director, said the calls were a clear attempt to suppress Republican turnout in the 2nd Congressional District.
World-Herald staff writer Juan Perez Jr. contributed to this report.
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