There’s new traction in the efforts to expand the voting rights of the 21 percent of Nebraska voters who are registered Independents.
A poll from National Open Primaries, a nonprofit national leader on election reform, and Nonpartisan Nebraska, a state grassroots organization dedicated to protecting and expanding nonpartisan elections and governance, shows that a substantial majority favors an initiative to open Nebraska primaries to independent voters.
“Independents, like myself, now account for 21 percent of registered voters in Nebraska,” Nathan Leach of Kearney, director of Nonpartisan Nebraska said. “It’s time to have a serious conversation about changing our closed, partisan primaries to a primary that allows all voters a fair and competitive election.
“More than 80 years ago, Nebraskans overwhelmingly approved creating the only nonpartisan Unicameral in the country — it’s time to expand that reform to our primary elections and start removing partisanship from the ballot box,” he said.
The poll of 917 registered Nebraska voters indicated nearly 68 percent of them support a top-two open primary for all state elections (where all candidates for office would be listed on a single unified ballot, all voters could vote for any candidate, regardless of their party registration, and the two candidates with the most votes would then advance to the general election). Only 18 percent of respondents disagreed.
Additionally, the poll indicated 71 percent of Nebraska voters believe that Independents should be able to participate in both the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries. Eighty-one percent of Democrats, 57 percent Republicans and 82 percent Independents supported the idea.
Seventy-two percent of Nebraska voters believe that the Legislature should not be controlled by any political party, with only 11 percent supporting majority control. They fear political control would hamper the efficiency of the legislature. Just look at recent rules debates led by Republican lawmakers that have wasted valuable time otherwise set aside for floor debate. Eighty-seven percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of Independents support the belief.
Seventy-two percent of respondents believe that partisan control of Congress has led to gridlock, needless bickering, and an inability to address real problems. Seventy percent of Democrats, 70 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Independents agreed.
Not surprisingly, the poll indicated Nebraskans overall approve of the job President Donald Trump is doing, but are more mixed about Governor Ricketts, disapprove of the job the legislature is doing and are very disapproving of the US Congress. Pollsters said the numbers are consistent with how voters in other states rate their state and federal legislature.
Fifty-three percent said they approve of the job Trump is doing, 45 percent disapproved and 3 percent were listed as neutral. Rickett’s job was approved by 39 percent with 45 percent saying they disapproved and 15 percent neutral. Only 28 percent of respondents approved of the job the Legislature is doing with 44 percent disapproving and 28 percent neutral. A mere 13 percent said they approved of the job Congress is doing with a whopping 76 percent saying they disapprove.
Leach said that no decision has been made on pursuing the ballot issue to extend Nebraska’s legislative open primary to include congressional races and statewide offices, but the poll indicated that if the question were on the ballot today, it would receive 51 percent approval, 26 percent disapproval and 23 percent neutral.
Leach encouraged Nebraskans interested in expressing their opinions on this proposal to visit the Nonpartisan Nebraska Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ NonPartisanNebraska/) and leave a message.