Special election to replace Fortenberry to cost Lancaster County around $300,000

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 7:19 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2022 at 9:10 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - 2022 is going to be an expensive year for the Lancaster County Election Commission, footing the bill for three elections, including the special election to fill Congressman Jeff Fortenberry’s District 1 seat, which will be vacant starting April 1.

Dave Shively, Lancaster County Election Commissioner, tells 10/11 NOW, he estimates the special election will cost the count $300,000, and the Secretary of State’s Office said the county will have to pay that entire amount. This isn’t the only challenge, as Shively said the primary election, which will be May 10, is already a major undertaking and this happened fairly suddenly.

“We knew this was a possibility depending on what happened because of the circumstances around the congressional seat,” Shively said. “At least now we have a little better idea of the timing which will give us the opportunity to finish up the primary and move right into the special election.”

A spokesperson for Governor Pete Ricketts said he’s going to wait to set a date for the special election until after the vacancy goes into effect. Ricketts has to set the date within 90 days, and will likely be toward the end of June to give counties as much time as possible to prepare.

Time, Shively said, they’ll need.

“There will be logistic challenges. Many of our poll workers will be working again in just over a month depending on the date the governor selects, and getting supplies and getting everything ready, with supply chain issues,” Shively said.

Shively said creating the ballot will be easy, as there will only be two candidates. The Nebraska Republican Party and Nebraska Democratic Party will name candidates, likely by the end of April. The Secretary of State’s office said neither the Libertarian nor Legalize Marijuana Now parties are eligible to name candidates.

10/11 NOW reached out to both the Nebraska Republican Party and Nebraska Democratic Party. Taylor Gage, with the Nebraska GOP, said once a date is set for the election, the executive board will set a meeting to choose their candidate. Four Republicans will run for the seat in the primary, including former state senator Mike Flood who has been endorsed by Governor Pete Ricketts.

The Nebraska Democratic Party forwarded an interview done with the Nebraska Examiner, in which they said the party will be considering both Democratic candidates who will be on the primary ballot, state senator Patty Pansing Brooks and UNL student Jazari Zakarai, who has live streamed events like the Black Lives Matters marches.

Shively said once they know the date and the candidates, it will be crunch time for getting those ballots out and hammering out the details of the third major election planned in 2022.

“I told my staff I thought June would be a break for us, but I don’t think it will be,” Shively said. “But I think we’re up for the challenge.”

One way to help the Election Commission with this challenge is to sign up to be a poll worker. Shively said they need from 1,000 to 1,100 workers. If you’re interested in signing up, click this link: https://www.lancaster.ne.gov/347/Election-Board-Worker-Information

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