HomePoliticsWhat to expect during Nebraska's presidential and state primaries

What to expect during Nebraska’s presidential and state primaries

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nebraskans will cast presidential primaries Tuesday in a reliably Republican state that could nevertheless be a decisive one in the race for the White House. Voters will also decide several contentious primaries in states, including the U.S. Senate, where both Republican incumbents are on the ballot.

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump should easily win their primaries, as they already unofficially secured their parties’ nominations on March 12. But Nebraska is offering voters the latest opportunities to cast protest votes against both presumptive nominees.

On the Republican side, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley continues to receive a significant share of the vote despite her campaign ending in early March. Biden and Trump have won nearly every election this year by overwhelming margins, but continued protest votes with just weeks left in the primary season have raised questions about voter dissatisfaction with both candidates.

Biden has faced organized campaigns in several states to vote “uncommitted” in protest against the war in Gaza. In Nebraska, however, the only options for those casting protest votes on the Democratic side are to vote for Rep. Dean Phillips or write-in candidate, and the state only counts write-in ballots for candidates who have filed an affidavit and paid a filing fee before the election. No one has done this.

Nebraska reliably votes Republican in presidential elections, but the state awards electoral college votes based on the votes in individual congressional districts. Biden won one of Nebraska’s five electoral votes in 2020 as he received the most votes in the state’s 2nd Congressional District.

Elsewhere on the ballot, Republican U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer and Pete Ricketts both face nominal opposition in their primaries, one of the rare cases in which both senators in a state participate in the vote at the same time. Fischer is seeking a third term, while Ricketts is running to complete the remaining two years of former Republican U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse’s term. Sasse resigned in 2023 to become president of the University of Florida. Ricketts, who had just completed two terms as governor, was appointed by new Republican Gov. Jim Pillen to fill Sasse’s vacancy, and he now faces a required special election to serve out the term.

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In Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, Republican U.S. Rep. Don Bacon is facing a challenge from his right flank from Dan Frei, who previously ran for the seat in 2014. Bacon is one of 16 Republican members of Congress representing a district that Biden carried in 2020. The 2nd District, anchored in Omaha, gave Biden one electoral vote under the state’s unique rules, which award each congressional district one electoral vote. That outcome prompted some Nebraska Republicans and national pro-Trump activists to call for a change in state law so that all of the state’s electoral votes would be awarded to the statewide winner. Without the change, the 2nd District is expected to be closely contested in the presidential race, in addition to the race for the U.S. House of Representatives seat.

The contested primary will also be held in the First and Third Congressional Districts, as well as for several seats in the state’s nonpartisan, unicameral Legislature.

Here’s what to expect on Tuesday:

PRIMARY DAY

The presidential and state primaries will be held in Nebraska on Tuesday. Polling stations close at 9:00 PM Dutch time.

WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT

The Associated Press will provide voting results for the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries, as well as contested primaries for both U.S. Senate seats, four U.S. House primaries and 15 state legislative primaries. The Democratic presidential primary will feature Biden, Dean Phillips, and a write-in option. The Republican ballot features Trump, Nikki Haley and Perry Johnson, as well as the write-in option.

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WHO CAN VOTE

Nebraska Republicans have a closed primary system, meaning only registered Republicans are allowed to participate in a Republican primary. Registered Democrats and independent or unaffiliated voters can participate in the Democratic primaries.

DELEGATED ASSIGNMENT RULES

Nebraska’s 29 pledged Democratic delegates are allocated according to standard national party rules. Six at-large delegates are allocated in proportion to the statewide vote, as well as three PLEO delegates, or “party leaders and elected officials.” A total of twenty delegates are at stake for the state’s three congressional districts, allocated in proportion to the voting results in each district. Candidates must receive at least 15% of the statewide vote to qualify for statewide delegates, and 15% of the vote in a congressional district to qualify for delegates in that district.

In the Republican presidential primary, all 36 delegates at stake will be awarded to the winner of the statewide vote.

DECISION NOTES

In the presidential race, Biden and Trump are the favorites in their primaries as neither candidate faces credible challenges. Early indications of them winning statewide at a level consistent with the overwhelming margins seen in most other contests held this year could be enough to determine the statewide winners. If organized protest voting emerges in the Democratic or Republican primaries, it will likely be strongest in the Omaha region. Haley’s best performances in this year’s campaign came from Democratic areas of the states.

The AP does not make forecasts and will only declare a winner if it has been established that there is no scenario with which the underlying candidates can close the gap. If no race is called, the AP will continue to report on any newsworthy developments, such as concessions to candidates or declarations of victory. The AP will make it clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.

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Recounts occur automatically in Nebraska if the voting margin is 1% of the total votes or less in races where more than 500 votes are cast. The AP can declare a winner in a race eligible for a recount if it can determine the lead is too large for a recount or legal challenge to change the outcome.

What do attendance and presales look like?

As of April 1, there were approximately 1.2 million registered voters in Nebraska. Of those, 49% were Republicans and 27% Democrats.

In the 2022 primaries, turnout was about 22% of the more than 1.2 million registered voters in the Republican primaries and about 8% in the Democratic primaries. That year, about 39% of voters in the Republican primaries and 65% of the Democratic primaries cast their ballots before Election Day.

As of Thursday, a total of 116,343 votes had been cast before the primaries, about 54% in the Republican primaries and 40% in the Democratic primaries.

How long does vote counting usually take?

In the 2022 primaries, the AP first reported results at 9:03 p.m. ET, or three minutes after polls closed. The election night tabulation ended at 2:02 a.m. ET with approximately 95% of the total votes counted.

ARE WE THERE YET?

As of Tuesday, there are 62 days until the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, 97 days until the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and 175 days until the November general election.

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