Of the 5 proposed pipelines to move tar sands sludge from Canada to refineries or export terminals, 2 have been shut down and 2 have been delayed and forced to start over (including Keystone XL last November). That leave just the Enbridge Line 3 across Minnesota, which because it crosses numerous bodies of water needs approval from the Army Corps of Engineers. For more background you can go here https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/expanding-the-line-3-tar-sands-pipeline-would-put-water-and-climate-at-risk/
The Corps began a 30 day comment period just before the holidays ( of course ) so there is very little time to submit a comment but the folks at Greenpeace have streamlined the process. You can submit a comment through their website https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/
Although there weren’t many surprises in our recent election cycle usually there are none at all, and so, a brief look back through the settled dust.
Voter turnout: 696 thousand Nebraskans voted this time around out of a possible 1.2 million who are registered for a turnout of 57%. While not as high as a presidential election year ( 2016 was 71%) it was still a solid increase over 2014’s 48 % rate. According to the Secretary of State website Republicans hold a statewide 48 – 31 percent advantage over Democrats in registered voters with 20% remaining or defaulting to independent or non-partisan as it is officially termed. Libertarians have .01 % and Greens are not currently recognized and need to petition again to get ballot status.
Money turnout: As usual more dollars turned out to vote than people. Open Secrets (opensecrets.org) reports that a combined $12.3 million was raised for Nebraska’s House and Senate races this cycle, 56% by Republicans and 40% by Democrats. In the Senate race Republican Deb Fischer out-begged her opponent Jane Raybould by a 3-1 margin (about $6 million to $2 million) with some 90% of Fischer’s money coming from PACs and what Open Secrets calls “large individual contributions”. The Bacon vs Eastman race in the 2nd Congressional District was much closer with Bacon having the slight edge of 2.48 million to Eastman’s 2.35 million(which was raised with Eastman refusing PAC contributions). Bacon retained his seat by just 2 percentage points 51-49.
One other interesting note can be found at Open Secrets by going to the Nebraska page through their search box and clicking on the Donor menu. There you will find that TD Ameritrade , not the organization itself but its owners (Ricketts family) their employees and their PACs, spent more than $3.7 million around the country (including Nebraska of course) just on congressional elections. This is 10 times what the next highest donor spent and about as much as the rest of the top 20 donors in Nebraska combined.
Results: As expected most incumbents at the state level were reelected, Bacon by just 6500 votes, Fortenberry and Smith by remaining invisible. In broad terms the 20% who are non-partisans split evenly enough that Democrats could not overcome the registration advantage held by Republicans. What was a slight surprise is that Initiative 427, to expand Medicaid to some of the working poor, won by 6-7 points mostly on the strength of urban and suburban voters. And while pipeline and climate activists came just short of “flipping” the Public Service Commission to a more progressive makeup, a real clean energy advocate, Eric Williams was elected to the OPPD Board.
Looking ahead: After 3 terms as Secretary of State, John Gale is stepping aside and his elected replacement, Bob Evnen, has declared support for more stringent voter ID laws so we need to keep a lookout in that direction. Even though the Democrats picked up a couple seats in the state legislature it remains solidly Republican and only nominally non-partisan.
Election Day is speeding toward us and whether that fills you with anticipation or dread or both we need to remember the basics. Since you’re here on the Nebraska Greens website most of this may be old news but a reminder or a how-to for friends and relatives is often helpful.
Until we pass some form of universal voter registration (a topic for another column) you still have to register to vote if you have never done so before or if you have changed your name, address or party affiliation. You can do this a number of ways: in person at your county election office; online at the Nebraska Secretary of State website https://www.nebraska.gov/apps-sos-voter-registration/ ; at the DMV office when you get or renew a drivers license; or at Dept. of Health and Human Services or the Dept. of Education when you register for programs with those departments. The registration deadline this year is Friday October 19th for all of these methods except registering at your county election office which is Friday October 26th.
And until we make Election Day a federal holiday (also another interesting discussion) many of us may need to vote early or by mail. You can vote early in person at your county election office through the end of business hours the day before the election. If you prefer to have your early/absentee ballot mailed to you, you need to request it from the county election office by October 19th. Go to http://www.sos.ne.gov/elec/clerks.html to find information on your county election office. It can be returned in person or by mail anytime before 8pm on Election Day.
Finally, if you aren’t sure where to vote – perhaps you have moved or you lost the little card the election office sent you – you can also go to the look-up page at the Sec. of State site https://www.votercheck.necvr.ne.gov/VoterView/ If you are registered and feel you are in the right place but still run into a challenge at your polling place remember you can ask for a provisional ballot.