North Omaha Votes Are Up
by Luis E. Jimenez
Preston Love, Jr. shared thoughts and data from the 2018 midterm election during a press conference at the office of Black Votes Matter. “North Omaha voted like crazy!” Love observed. The BVM facility was noticeably void of the campaign literature and rally signs from the many campaigns that sought support from his establishment at 2518 N 24th Street.
Over 14,000 in North Omaha voted on November 6th. Compared to the 2014 midterm election where 9,300 North Omaha citizens voted. In 2017 mayoral election only 8,500 North Omaha voters placed a ballot, and in 2016, a presidential year, 11,700 votes were cast.
“We beat records for voting during a midterm election. 2018 we voted at 40%. In the 2014 midterm we voted slightly under 30%. We increased our voting by 10%. Wow!” expressed Love.
Joe Jordan of News Channel Nebraska suggested not everyone would see 40% turnout as impressive. Love expressed that although 40% turnout is not ideal, the North Omaha community needs reasons to celebrate. He considers the numbers a victory as stagnant or lower voter turnout would have been upsetting, but an uptick in numbers could be an early indicator of a positive upward trend for voter participation.
Love left national politics in 2006 and returned to Omaha after his father, famous saxophonist Preston Love Sr., had passed away to be with his mother in her final years. He has been organizing to bring out the vote since then.
The historic candidacies of Spencer Danner for Nebraska Secretary of State and Mike Hughes for Douglas County Sheriff were encouraging efforts. “Danner as the top African American vote getter in Nebraska history in a statewide race and Hughes for his great and historical race...We celebrate them.”
Love credited the help of community organizations that focused resources during the election season for the boost in turnout. He named Heartland Workers Center, Black Men United, BVM, League of Women Voters, NOISE, and Mind and Soul 101.3 FM for conducting several candidate forums, interviews, concert events, and those that held intense door knocking and phone banking. Love also gave accolades to North Omaha clergy for their leadership and messaging.
In particular, Love was thankful to the Nebraska Democratic Party and their Constituency Director Precious McKesson for her hard work. Among other things, “Ms. McKesson organized successful street corner visibility throughout North Omaha.” Noteworthy and present at the morning presser was the NDP Black Caucus, represented by the caucus treasurer Jo-el Chiles accompanied by their campaign committee chairman. However, Love said that if the local Republican Party had organized in North Omaha, then they would have been recognized for their community engagement.
Concerns still remain with Love on “the high level of provisional ballots.” If there is some question as to a voter’s eligibility to vote, said voter must cast a provisional ballot. The provisional ballot is then authenticated and counted after election day by election officials. Love’s non-profit, BVM has requested data from the Douglas County Election Commission (DCEC) on the number of provisional ballots by city council districts in Douglas County, particularly the number collected in district 2, which includes most of northeast Omaha. Love would like to compare the numbers from 2014, 2016, and 2018 elections.
Some have expressed concern with the voting experience including one North Omaha resident who explained that three family members and a friend had issues with their early ballots. The woman’s son uses her address for voting purposes and did not receive the ballot when initially requested. It was not until after they called the Election Commission to inquire did the ballot get sent to their home.
The resident also wondered how many ballots were not counted because they were placed under “suspended status.” The Election Commission's Elections Manager, Justine Kessler, explained that the all ballots are counted but some may be placed under suspended status for reasons including a signatures not matching what is on record or because an early ballot was sent a second time.
The Election Commission cannot give a precise number of suspended ballots because that number fluctuates while issues are resolved. All ballots will be finalized as either “accepted” or “rejected.”
The DCEC reports total voter registration at 357,178 for the county; Republican: 130,297; Democrat: 135,582; Libertarian: 4,963; Nonpartisan: 86,336. Total ballots cast during the general election 2018 stands at 205,870 in Douglas County, as of November 16. Official election results will be available on Wednesday, November 21.