image of election mail
Local groups are encouraging Nebraskans to register early to vote.

Groups across Lancaster County are sending letters, posting links and hosting voting booths across the state to encourage eligible voters to get registered ahead of the Nov. 8 general election.

Husker Vote Coalition is a nonpartisan, student-led group that aims to increase voter registration at UNL. Coalition president Ken Bartling said the 18-24-year-old age group has one of the lowest voter turnout rates across the country, so it’s important to educate the rising electorate.

Husker Vote Coalition uses a wide variety of avenues to get the word out about voter registration, including voter ambassadors, voter registration booths and social media posts. Bartling described the 20 voter ambassadors they have as their “secret sauce.” Voter ambassadors are trained by Lancaster County to register people to vote. The coalition wanted to appeal to students by having someone young who is similar to them.

When you see somebody that’s like you, another student or somebody who’s young, who’s taking the time to register voters and to have those conversations with you, in my experience, I’ve found that it’s 10 and 20 times as successful,” said Bartling.

The voter ambassadors go to in-person events that the Husker Vote Coalition hosts. Usually, it is at a table that is set up around campus. At these tables, there is a voter ambassador there to answer questions as well as register people to vote if necessary.

Bartling stressed that it is important to have many different avenues to reach as many people as possible, so often, the booths are promoted online and on social media. Bartling hopes that having many different opportunities will allow for the coalition to reach as many people as possible.

I think that the reason that UNL has found such success, and the Husker Vote Coalition has found such success, is that we’ve got so many different options for all of the different types of prospective voters,” said Bartling.

The Lancaster County Election Office is also working to get the word out about voter registration and raise the number of registered voters in Lancaster County by helping people through the logistics of voter registration. Voter registration numbers are down within Lancaster County, and while voter registration happens all year long, Lancaster County election commissioner Dave Shively says election season is when efforts really ramp up.

Registering to vote is probably one of the things that we do that’s (a) continual effort, although more people get interested in registering as we get closer to the elections,” said Shively.

The election office’s main event holds election registration sites at places such as grocery stores, coffee shops, libraries and outside the election office. The sites are usually open on weekends for two to three hours to give people a chance to update their registration or get registered. The office also works with different organizations that want to register others to vote.

“In order for people to do those outside registration drives, they also have to be deputy registrars, which is a training from our office that we do,” said Shively.

The training helps the election office make sure that all the correct information is gathered on card and it is legible. Shively said the training serves as  “a little follow-up afterwards on our end.”

Shively said the election office’s efforts are helping increase this year’s numbers. Currently, the number of registered voters sits at about 201,000. While that is down from other years, the election office is still pleased.

“People move. We go through our annual purge of voters that haven’t been active in a while, or we’ve read or we’ve received information that they may not may no longer live in Lancaster County.  Pretty typical going from a presidential year to this year,” said Shively. 

Civic Nebraska is another group that has been working hard to get people registered to vote.

The group’s main mission is to improve civic life for Nebraskans by centering on voting. Civic Nebraska’s main push to get people registered is to contact them directly.

We have a very good list of voters or voters who may not vote every time and we are texting them and calling them,” said Steve Smith, director of communications for Civic Nebraska.

Civic Nebraska will make between 100,000 and 120,000 calls and texts between now and the end of October, Smith said. The texts will include a link to the voter registration website, a hotline number in case the people have questions and information about polling places across Nebraska. Civic Nebraska is also pushing out its online presence.

“We’ll use any number of digital channels to reach people; it’s essential in this day and age to be able to do that. I mean, we live a good chunk of our lives on our screens now,” said Smith. “We want to sell umbrellas, where it’s raining, so to speak.”

Civic Nebraska wants to make all voting information easy and accessible for people to find.

“We want to be able to say, ‘Okay, we’ll make it as easy as possible for you to register to find where you need to vote, to request an early mail-in ballot, whatever it might be, to know where my election office is.’ All that stuff, we make it just a click away for people to be able to find and really promote that,” said Smith.

Smith and Civic Nebraska have seen their efforts pay off as the number of registered voters continues to climb ahead of the Oct. 21 deadline.

We encourage everybody to vote, to research, to become informed and to go out and make your voice heard,” said Smith.