Celebrating the Volunteer Creators of the Douglas County Voters’ Guide

Heroes of the League of Women Voters

Developing and providing the League of Women Voters’ Guide is a “herculean task.” It takes many dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly to produce the Guide in a very short time. Featured below are four volunteers who devoted over 300 hours developing the Guide for the 2018 Primary and General Elections. These volunteers are heroes of the League of Women Voters.

Kathy Dewell

This is the eighth Guide for Kathy who serves as editor of the League of Women Voters Greater Omaha (LWVGO) Douglas County Voters Guide that includes local political races.  Kathy believes the Guide is important so citizens make informed educated decisions on who they want to serve in political office, rather than relying on recommendations by parties, partisan groups, etc.  She emphasizes that lesser known races matter deeply to the health of our community. Kathy believes the Guide helps citizens understand what a candidate stands for and provides details on how he/she plan to carry out their beliefs.  Kathy works in IT for Mutual of Omaha, is married and the mother of two children ages, 17 & 19.

Rebecca Armstrong Langle

This is the 10th Voters’ Guide for Rebecca who has been helping LWVGO and the State League since 2012. Rebecca manages candidate information for the state offices and state legislature on the Vote411.org website for all Nebraskans. Rebecca is Vice President of Development at Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, is an alumnus of the New Leaders Council and is nominated for the 2018 Emerging Non-Profit Leader. From her political science education and experience working for Senator Ben Nelson, Rebecca is interested in education of voters and equality issues and generously gives back to the community. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Ryan and dog, Delilah.  

Laura Torres Olivera

Laura translated the Voters’ Guide into Spanish. Laura came to Omaha from Mexico City, Mexico 10 years ago. Growing up, Laura had the opportunity to live in France and Canada. She speaks English, Spanish and French. She is married and has one son who is studying at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. In Mexico, Laura worked for Banco Nacional de Comercio Exterior (National Bank for Foreign Trade). Her activities focused on the improvement of foreign investment in Mexico. Laura is passionate about the promotion of democracy, transparency and the betterment of representative forms of government.

Lilia Franciscony

Lilia served as the proofreader of the Spanish language guide.  Recently retired from Omaha Steaks as a Bilingual Benefits Specialist, and prior to that, Lilia retired from Mutual of Omaha as a translator.   Lilia came to the United States from Caracas Venezuela 35 years ago to attend graduate school at UNO. Lilia has one daughter who lives here in Omaha. Lilia enjoys the League because it provides a clear consistent structure of support to the community and provides her with options to donate as much or as little time as her schedule permits. Her experience of living in another country, has made Lilia want to embrace and defend democracy as a right and a duty.

The Making of the Voters’ Guide & Vote411.org

The Voters’ Guide has been an institution in Douglas County for the past 50 years and is appreciated throughout the state. The LWVGO Voters’ Guide covers statewide races as well as local races in Douglas County. The Douglas County Election Commission requests the paper guides on the first day of early voting because voters ask for and expect it. The other Nebraska Leagues in Lincoln, Hastings and Seward did not provide local candidate Guides in 2018 but promote utilization of Vote411.org website for its content on statewide races (Legislature, Governor, and many state offices.)

The 2018 paper Guide was printed for the Primary and General Elections. The Voters Guide team was exemplary in providing the Guide on the day ballots were mailed out to the public, (35 days prior to the election) which is challenging because of the late deadline established for candidates filing for office.  The Voters’ Guide for the Primary election covered 46 offices/districts. The 48-page general election Guide covered 59 races and districts and was translated into Spanish.

The Voters’ Guide team contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar. They are asked to submit their answers online in the www.vote411.org website.  The process of “making” the Guide is a detailed complicated undertaking, below is a condensed listing of the steps to making the Voters’ Guide:

  • Contact Election commission and Secretary of State to determine if any district boundaries have changed.  If boundaries have changed, purchase updated GIS files from the Commission and upload.
  • Obtain a list of candidates from the Election office, which does not always include the candidates email address.  Volunteers try to obtain missing email addresses.
  • Form questions for candidates by a committee to obtain their position on several key issues, these questions are inputted into vote411.org
  • Prepare Vote411.org with offices on the ballot set up, develop email templates for candidates
  • Send candidates a postcard to make them aware they will be receiving an email with details on how to participate in the Voters’ Guide.  Next, they receive an email invitation with a link to answer the candidate questions on vote411 website
  • Send reminder emails to candidates who do not respond
  • Format paper Voters’ Guide for printing

Funders of Vote411 & Voters Guide

Thanks to the Nebraska Civic Engagement Table for helping fund the Douglas County Voters Guide!

Download the 2018 Douglas County Voters’ Guide

Download and read the 2018 voters’ guide here: General Election Voters’ Guide.

You can print, save and share this nonpartisan guide to the Nov. 6, 2018 election.

Haga clic aquí para la Elección General del Estado de la Guía de Votantes del Condado de Douglas.

2018 General Election Candidate Forum: Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors, District 3

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha held a moderated candidate forum for the candidates for Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors, District 3. The candidates in this nonpartisan race are Jim Trebbien and Maureen Monahan.

You can watch all our candidate forums and see all of our 2018 elections info under “2018 ELECTIONS” on our home page.

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any candidate for office or political party. LWVGO’s mission is to inform and empower voters.

2018 General Election Candidate Forum: Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors, District 2 & At-Large

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha held a moderated candidate forum for the candidates for Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), Subdivision 1. The candidates in this nonpartisan race are Brad Ashby and Erin Feichtinger for the district 2 seat and Paul Anderson and Ron Hug for the at-large district seat.

You can watch all our candidate forums and see all of our 2018 elections info under “2018 ELECTIONS” on our home page.

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any candidate for office or political party. LWVGO’s mission is to inform and empower voters.

Voters’ Guide: Douglas County West Board of Education

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

Find your district by looking up your voter registration on the Nebraska Voter Check website.

Candidates for Douglas County West Board of Education

Kelly Hinrichs (R):  No response received.

Jamie Jorgensen (NP):  Unable to reach candidate.

Bill Koile, Jr. (NP):  Education: BS — Northwest Missouri State University (2000),  MS — Clarkson College (2008),  MBA — University of Colorado (2020).  Volunteer experience: Board President — DC West Youth Sports,  Gretna Volunteer Fire Department — Assistant Chief (past)

Patrick McCarville (D):  Unable to reach candidate.

Tristan C. Nelson (R):  No response received.

Amanda Wright (D):  No response received.

Douglas County West Board of Education Candidates’ Responses

If elected, what two things do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your first year?

Kelly Hinrichs:  No response received.

Jamie Jorgensen:  Unable to reach candidate.

Bill Koile, Jr.:  I believe that the work the current board has undertaken in the past has laid ground work to further improve the community and the education our youth receive. They keep professional development opportunities for the staff at the forefront to assure the students of the best instruction possible. I would continue to strengthen both of these initiatives.

Patrick McCarville:  Unable to reach candidate.

Tristan C. Nelson:  No response received.

Amanda Wright:  No response received.

How can schools use technology to create better equity and educational outcomes?

Kelly Hinrichs:  No response received.

Jamie Jorgensen:  Unable to reach candidate.

Bill Koile, Jr.:  DC West has already taken steps to be on the leading edge of technology for our students in the rapidly changing world of education and have received national attention for their success with robotics and the STEM programs offered to the youth. The district needs to maintain this momentum.

Patrick McCarville:  Unable to reach candidate.

Tristan C. Nelson:  No response received.

Amanda Wright:  No response received.

What can be done to ensure the safety of students and teachers in our schools?

Kelly Hinrichs:  No response received.

Jamie Jorgensen:  Unable to reach candidate.

Bill Koile, Jr.:  Safety should be a priority, not only from a external perspective but also from an internal perspective.  Every student, staff member and support personnel  should feel safe coming to school. Programs to promote kindness/inclusiveness should continue and the relationship between DC West, the Valley Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriffs Office should be strengthened.

Patrick McCarville:  Unable to reach candidate.

Tristan C. Nelson:  No response received.

Amanda Wright:  No response received.

Voters’ Guide: Omaha Public Schools Board of Education

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

Find your district by looking up your voter registration on the Nebraska Voter Check website.

Candidates for Omaha Public School Board of Education, Subdistrict 2

Marlon Brewer (D):  No response received.

Marque A. Snow (D):  http://snowforops.com.  Current Public Office, dates held: Omaha Public Schools Board of Education 2013-Present  President- Omaha Public Schools Board of Education January 2018 – Present.      Past Public Office, dates held: Vice President- Omaha Public Schools Board of Education February 2017 – December 2017. Education: University of South Dakota -Political Science & History.  Volunteer experience: The 100 Black Men of Omaha – Mentoring Reach & Rise Mentoring – Mentoring

Omaha Public School Board of Education, Subdistrict 2, Candidates’ Responses

If elected, what two things do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your first year?

Marlon Brewer:  No response received.

Marque A. Snow: If re-elected, I will continue to work on our retirement pension plan to find a solution within the first year. I also plan to expand our dual language program in OPS to North Omaha and re-align the OPS Strategic Plan to help guide our new Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Logan.

How can schools use technology to create better equity and educational outcomes?

Marlon Brewer:  No response received.

Marque A. Snow: Schools are currently using technology to increase better equity as well as educating students on how to use these tools safely and efficiency to compete in the global society. Two years ago, my colleagues and I created our first K-12 virtual school to meet the needs of our students outside of the classroom.

What can be done to ensure the safety of students and teachers in our schools?

Marlon Brewer:  No response received.

Marque A. Snow: In 2014, my colleagues and I put up a $421 million bond to increase the safety of our students and faculty. The community voted 2-1 for the 2014 bond to put in storm shelters, upgrade security measures, as well as fire and life safety mechanisms. In March of 2018, my colleagues and I voted to put another bond for $410 million to reduce the number of portables and deal with our capacity issue at many of our schools. I continue to work with my colleagues from various districts on best practices.

Omaha Public School Board of Education, Subdistrict 4

Shavonna Holman (D):  http://holmanforops.com.  Current Public Office, dates held: Omaha Public Schools Board of Education, Subdistrict 4 January 2018-current.  Past Public Office, dates held: None.  Education: BS in Education, University of Nebraska-Omaha MS in Education, University of Nebraska-Omaha  MS in Educational Administration, University of Nebraska-Omaha Doctorate of Education, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Military experience: None.  Volunteer experience: Open Door Mission Salvation Army.

If elected, what two things do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your first year?

Shavonna Holman:  1. Recruitment and retention of teachers /administrators.  2. Increased efforts in providing alternative education programming/opportunities for the underachieving, high ability learner.

How can schools use technology to create better equity and educational outcomes?

Shavonna Holman:  When current, quality technology is available, all students are provided an equitable learning opportunity, as long as teachers have been properly trained to use and implement such technology. Technology can be the one thing which circumvents all barriers, shrinking equity and accessibility gaps, while transforming learning. It can personalized to meet the needs of today’s K-12 diverse learner. It can be used to reach and teach students virtually, who may not be physically able to attend class.

What can be done to ensure the safety of students and teachers in our schools?

Shavonna Holman:  A district safety/crisis plan should be followed and practiced consistently so that if an emergency were to arise, both students and staff are fully prepared to follow the protocols in place as is they were second nature. Moreover, all schools should either have a district security guard or SRO who are trained to handle such emergencies. All buildings should be secured with having only one entry access point for visitors, who can be seen by the secretary prior to buzzer entrance.

Candidates for Omaha Public School Board of Education, Subdistrict 6

Jeff Jezewski (R):  http://jeffjforops.com.  Education: UNO, BSBA with major in Accounting.  Volunteer experience: Sienna Francis House, YMCA youth sports.

Nancy Kratky (R):  Current Public Office, dates held: None.  Past Public Office, dates held: Metro Area Boards of Education 1994-2008.  Past president twice.  Education: Bachelors and Masters from UNO.  Military experience: None.  Volunteer experience: Salvation Army Auxiliary Board, Phi Delta Kappa, Citizens Advisory Board-OPS 19592018, NE Mental Health Planning and Education Committee, Technical  High Renovation Committee.

Omaha Public School Board of Education, Subdistrict 6, Candidates’ Responses

If elected, what two things do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your first year?

Jeff Jezewski: My overall emphasis will be to help the Board focus on OPS’s mission which states:  OPS prepares all students to excel in college, career, and life.  More specifically, I will use my 30 years of real world business experience and finance background to help OPS address its daunting unfunded pension liability.

Nancy Kratky: 1. Ability of others to easily reach TAC building staff and get satisfactory information in a shorter period of time.  Cutting staff over and over does not necessarily produce  good results.  2. We have a serious problem with language usage in our test scores, student papers and conversation.  This problem continues to grow daily.  I will address this at every opportunity.  Textbooks are not doing an adequate job.  Supplemental materials and greater focus is necessary.

How can schools use technology to create better equity and educational outcomes?

Jeff Jezewski: There is no silver bullet when it comes to eliminating the achievement gap.  Certainly, we should utilize all the tools available to address the issue.  And technology is one of those tools.  We do need to make certain that any ‘new’ approaches or techniques deployed are based on sound research and do not cause confusion or distraction for our teaching professionals.  I will work tirelessly to eliminate the achievement gap.

Nancy Kratky: We have whiteboards vs. blackboards. 1-1 ratio of computers and grade level sharing. Instructors presentations can be seen by all.  Student learning by access to apps, virtual learning, tablets and e-books. Websites provide the rapid-changing information vs. use of multiple, expensive textbooks for STEM, making the purchase cost effective. In many instances we allow computers to be used for homework assignments. Finally, familiarity of technology and the application of it is essential today.

What can be done to ensure the safety of students and teachers in our schools?

Jeff Jezewski: The safety of our kids is of utmost priority.  OPS should plan, practice, and be prepared to execute its plans to protect our kids.  However, I do not believe our teachers should be armed.  Our teachers should teach.  If additional security in our buildings is necessary then OPS will devote additional resources without impacting teaching in the classroom.

Nancy Kratky: Safety is always paramount in our ever-changing environment. Schools provide security entrances/ exits and parking lot cameras and alarm systems. Disguised personnel, police officers and school resource officers are now the norm. Finally, management of student traffic flow within the building and at the exits is used. In addition to keyed entries, drug sniffing dogs may be used. We monitor the trimming of trees and shrubs and provide specific terrorism training and drills for students and staff.

Omaha Public School Board of Education, Subdistrict 8

Kimara Z. Snipe (D): No response received.

Voters’ Guide: Gretna Board of Education

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

Find your district by looking up your voter registration on the Nebraska Voter Check website.

Candidates for Gretna Board of Education

Jennifer Bullington (R):  http://www.facebook.com/bullingtonforschoolboard.  Education: Bachelors Degree from Iowa State University, Masters Degree from Pacific Oaks College.  Military experience: Spouse of Air Force Veteran.  Volunteer experience: Board Member for the nonprofit Survivors Rising, Teaching Assistant for a Taekwondo kids class, Room Parent at Whitetail Creek Elementary School, Active Gretna Community Member

Jennifer Deitloff (NP):  Current Public Office, dates held: N/A.  Past Public Office, dates held: N/A.      Education: Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from University of Nebraska; Juris Doctorate from University of Nebraska College of Law.  Military experience: None.  Volunteer experience: Member — Child Saving Institute Guild Board since 2012 and started Kids 4 Kids of CSI — where kids plan a fundraising event supporting kids in foster care and the emergency shelter.  Association of Corporate Counsel programs committee co-chair.

David Gulizia (R):  No response received.

Mark Hauptman (R):  No response received.

Carsten Ruff (NP):  No response received.

Ann Sackett Wright (R):  No response received.

Gretna Board of Education Candidates’ Responses

If elected, what two things do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your first year?

Jennifer Bullington: First, I would love to be able to do my part in pursuing safety in school drop off and pick up procedures, including a street light at Hwy 370 & 186th St. As our district expands, we must continue to consider the safety of young and inexperienced drivers as well as the rush of traffic around those times. Second, I would love to gather as many members of the school district as possible to share their voices on our growing school district as we continue to learn the best way to expand.

Jennifer Deitloff: I would seek to understand both the work that the board has done to date and the individual perspectives of the other board members and the administration on strategic priorities for the district.  Thereafter, I would work collaboratively to ensure that we have appropriate crisis plans in place that properly address the risks facing our students, teachers and staff.  I would also take on a focused review of curriculum to identify areas to improve, enhance or modernize what we have today.

David Gulizia:  No response received.

Mark Hauptman:  No response received.

Carsten Ruff:  No response received.

Ann Sackett Wright: No response received.

How can schools use technology to create better equity and educational outcomes?

Jennifer Bullington: Technology has allowed our students to have a competitive edge and a head start on preengineering, pre-architecture, and pre-urban planning skills, just as a few examples, thusly better preparing them for higher education opportunities. The hands-on experience technology provides gives the kinesthetic and visual learners an opportunity to excel, making abstract concepts easier to understand & apply. We must use this opportunity to continue teaching internet safety as well.

Jennifer Deitloff: Not all of the technological tools that schools invest in actually promote learning and development for all students.  Schools should be disciplined and ask themselves whether they are investing in a technology because it is a popular trend among other schools or whether the technology will actually support the learning, participation and comprehension of all student users or does it instead reinforce social inequalities.  Schools need to be mindful of any barriers with the use of new technology

David Gulizia:  No response received.

Mark Hauptman:  No response received.

Carsten Ruff:  No response received.

Ann Sackett Wright: No response received.

What can be done to ensure the safety of students and teachers in our schools?

Jennifer Bullington: Being an educator myself means I’ve been a part of safety and lockdown drills. In addition to the regular drills and the officers present frequently in our schools, we need to bring the community’s voice to the discussion. What more do parents and other invested parties want to see? I’ve been fascinated by Oklahoma’s bulletproof shelters they’ve installed in classrooms. Additionally, I do believe we need to continue research on the prevalence of the Gretna area human trafficking.

Jennifer Deitloff: School safety has never been more prevalent in public discourse than it is today.  Protecting safety of students, teachers and staff in our school systems is a complex problem that requires a comprehensive solution.  Working to identify a mix between seeking to control access to guns, identifying and addressing mental and/or emotional health issues, investing in school security technology, identifying bullying and negative peer behavior and ensuring proactive crisis management plans are a start.

David Gulizia:  No response received.

Mark Hauptman:  No response received.

Carsten Ruff:  No response received.

Ann Sackett Wright: No response received.

What role, if any, should charter schools have in the Nebraska educational system?

Jennifer Bullington:  No response received.

Jennifer Deitloff: Nebraska’s public schools consistently score rankings above the national average.  While I recognize the importance of parental choice, it is important to consider the potential negative impact to students and society.  Choice does not necessarily guarantee quality.

David Gulizia:  No response received.

Mark Hauptman:  No response received.

Carsten Ruff:  No response received.

Ann Sackett Wright: No response received.

Voters’ Guide: Douglas County Assessor/Register of Deeds

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

All residents of Douglas County, Neb., are represented by this office.

Candidates for Douglas County Assessor/Register of Deeds

Diane L. Battiato (D):  Web Site: http://www.dianebattiato.com.  Current Public Office, dates held: Douglas County Assessor/Register of Deeds, 2015-current.  Past Public Office, dates held: Douglas County Register of Deeds, 2005-2015; Papillion City Councilwoman, 1997-2002.  Education: Randall and Londay Schools of Real Estate – Nebraska Licensed Real Estate Broker 1986-current; Nebraska Assessor Certificate; International Assoc. of Assessing Officers courses 101, 102, 300 certificates; Nat’l Certified Public Official designation.  Military experience: none.  Volunteer experience: Omaha Area Board of Realtors and Nebraska Realtors Association; Women’s Fund of Greater Omaha; League of Women Voters; NAACP; Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; United Way of the Midlands; ENOA, Meals On Wheels and more.

Walt Peffer (R):  Web Site: http://walt peffer for assessor.  Current Public Office, dates held: None.  Past Public Office, dates held: None.  Education: Attended UNO, Nebraska Real Estate License, State of Nebraska County Assessor Certificate.  Military experience: U.S. Army, Viet Nam veteran.  Volunteer experience: United Way, American Legion, Ralston Chamber of Commerce, church activities. Served on Omaha Charter View Commission, Served on City of Omaha Efficiency Commission.  Coach youth football, baseball and basketball.

Douglas County Assessor/Register of Deeds Candidates’ Responses

What are the two most compelling issues to address within the assessor’s office?

Diane L. Battiato:  One—Researching and determining the best method that will ensure land records are maintained in pristine condition so that they will always be available for use, which is required per state statute; and Two—continuing to strive for the best, most reliable process to use to provide fair and equitable property valuations.

Walt Peffer:  The current Assessor Office is in turmoil and requires someone with my 20 years of real estate and government background to set goals and objectives, and will be a advocate for the taxpayer. I will work to deliver fair, accurate and equalized valuations.

What, if any, changes need to be made regarding property valuations and the process of contesting those valuations?

Diane L. Battiato:  The valuation-protest process is dictated per state statute; no changes can be made at the local level.  Regarding property valuations, a planned, ongoing effort must be made to educate the public about the process, i.e., the difference between mass appraisal, which we employ, and fee appraisal.  Also, an effort must be made to educate property owners about the difference between valuations and taxing entities’ (political subdivisions) tax rates.  Understanding who actually controls tax rates.

Walt Peffer:  Get valuations right the first time, that are fair, accurate and equalized. Once preliminary valuations have been established, I will hold town hall meetings throughout the county so that the taxpayer does not have to take time off of work to meet with their Assessor.

If elected, what would be your first-year priorities?

Diane L. Battiato:  A: First—Continue my 4-term success as a proven, positive leader; Second—Continue to strive to provide fair and equitable valuations by using proven methods such as better identifying sales trends in smaller, more similar neighborhoods; and Third—Increase and improve communications with property owners that will result in obtaining more accurate, thorough information about an owner’s property.

Walt Peffer:  Get valuations right the first time, that are fair, accurate and equalized. Develop an attitude in the Assessor Office that we work for and with the property taxpayer.

Voters’ Guide: Nebraska Secretary of State

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

All Nebraskans are represented by this office.

Candidates for Nebraska Secretary of State

Spencer Danner (D):  Website:  http://www.dannerfornebraska.com.  Current Public Office, dates held: N/A.  Past Public Office, dates held: N/A.  Education: Bachelors Business Management.  Military experience: United States Air Force.  Volunteer experience: ACE Mentor Program Heartland Workforce Solutions.

Bob Evnen (R):  Website: http://www.BobEvnen2018.com.  Past Public Office, dates held: State Board of Education 2005-2012.  Education: BA – Michigan State JD – University of Southern California.  Volunteer experience: Cornhusker Council, Boy Scouts of America; Nebraska Art Association; Nebraska Continuing Legal Education; Nebraska State Bar Foundation; many school policy committees; speaker for many groups on public policy issues.

Nebraska Secretary of State Candidates’ Responses

Spencer Danner:  As Secretary of State, I will preserve the integrity and security of our elections.  Moving to 100% Mail in Balloting – 1st, is cost effective. 2nd, it has resulted in increased participation among voters. 3rd, it is easier for election officials to conduct. 4th, it allows for a more accurate picture of eligible voters, by keeping voting lists upto-date. 5th, it gives voters a longer opportunity to study the ballot and find answers.  Same Day Registration – Sameday registration would allow citizens to register by simply presenting a valid government-issued photo identification card and proof of residence at their polling place. This is the only instance where I believe Voter ID would be valid – not as an attempt to disenfranchise citizens.  Election Day Fail Safe – voters should be able to fix errors and omissions on their registration the day of election.  Replace antiquated machines and ensure the system is not susceptible or at least have a decreased risk of cyber-attack.

Bob Evnen: We must work to maintain the security of our elections statewide. I support voter ID, which is just common sense and can be implemented without disenfranchising properly registered voters. I also support checking voter registrations to independently confirm that registrants are U.S. citizens.  Our vote counting infrastructure will need to be modernized soon, and we can do so in a cost effective way. I support maintaining paper ballots. I will not support the use of computerized balloting at the polls.

What can the secretary of state’s office do to civically engage young Nebraskans?

Spencer Danner:  Allow 16-year old young people to pre-register to vote.  Prepare and encourage 16 to 18 year old young people to vote in the next eligible elections by creating Student Campaign Staff/Candidate Educational Courses.  Sponsor an Electoral College – for students looking to receive college credit for working on election campaigns, political issue campaigns, and lobby work.  Partner with educational institutions to work to have discussion on federal, state, and local that effect Nebraskans.  Create state wide youth service learning projects integrated in STEM, arts, cultural exchange, and public administration.  Partner with after school programs to create supplemental programs for high school students and teachers.

Bob Evnen:  The key to civic engagement is education. While sitting on the State Board of Education, I was the chair of our Subcommittee on Standards. In 2012 we adopted revised social studies standards, and with the standards the Board adopted a Statement of Purpose, which reads in part:  “The purpose of the Nebraska Social Studies Standards is to teach our children to become young patriots, who have an intellectual understanding of the genius of our country’s founding principles and who feel an emotional connection to our nation.”  The Board adopted this Statement of Purpose unanimously. The more effectively that we meet this purpose, the more civically engaged will be our young Nebraskans.

In an ideal world, how would you envision the relationship of the secretary of state’s office with the governor’s office?

Spencer Danner:  In an ideal world, the Governor of Nebraska would be an advocate for a fair, accessible, and inclusive government that works for all its citizens. Ideally, the Governor would champion the Secretary of State’s work to bring validity to the issues of modernizing elections, election security, agricultural exchange, small business growth and cyber security.  I believe the Secretary of State should partner with the Governor on issues that impact voters. I believe the Governor should use his/her political will to ensure agricultural exchange and trade is paramount for small business to export more goods to Nebraska than we import.  In a perfect world the Governor and Secretary of State would assume the responsibility of ensuring all legal voters in the state are registered to vote, citizens exercise their constitutional right to vote, and maintain a complete and accurate voter registration list, as well as taking responsibility to ensure the votes of Nebraskans are counted.

Bob Evnen:  The Governor and the Secretary of State should work collaboratively in areas of overlapping interest and responsibility but always consistent with their respective duties. For example, the Secretary of State is the protocol officer of the state, which makes the Secretary of State much like Nebraska’s ambassador to the world. If elected, I will use the status of the Secretary of State’s office to work with the Governor in negotiating international trade agreements that will expand Nebraska’s exports, particularly our ag export markets. I have had a long and positive relationship with our current Governor. I look forward to working together with him in expanding Nebraska’s export markets and growing Nebraska’s economy.

Voters’ Guide: Nebraska State Board of Education, District 8

The State Board of Education is an elected, constitutional body that sets policy and ensures that the State Department of Education functions effectively within the framework developed by the state Legislature and the board. By law, the board and the department have broad leadership functions to carry out certain regulatory and service activities. — from the board’s website

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that never supports or opposes any political party or candidate for office.

PDF of Douglas County Voters’ Guide | Find voter information specific to your ballot at vote411.org.

Find your district by looking up your voter registration on the Nebraska Voter Check website.

Candidates for State Board of Education, District 8

Pat McPherson (R):  http://www.votemcpherson.com.  Current Public Office, dates held: Nebraska State Board of Education, 2014-2018.  Past Public Office, dates held: Papio Natural Resources District  1978-82.  Education: Central High School, Omaha, Nebraska  Creighton University, B. A. Degree.  Military experience: U. S. Army Reserves.  Volunteer experience: Nebraska Comprehensive Health Insurance Board; National Association of State Boards of Education; Omaha Charter Review Commission; Community Health Charities of America and Nebraska; American Diabetes Ass;Foster Child Review Board, Red Cross

Deborah Neary (D):  http://neary4stateeducation.com.  Current Public Office, dates held: No previous attempt to run for public office.  Past Public Office, dates held: No previous attempt to run for public office.  Education: Master’s Degree in Public Administration and History.  Military experience: None.  Volunteer experience: *Business Ethics Alliance, Trustee  *West Omaha Rotary – Member & Former Club Officer  *ServeNebraska Board –Appointed by Governor Ricketts *Madonna School Board Member *League of Women Voters – Former Board Member *Leadership Omaha, Class 31.

State Board of Education, District 8, Candidates’ Responses

Do you see this board as being an elected or appointed body?  Please explain your reasoning.

Pat McPherson: It should continue to be an elected body.   Its current elected 8 member board represents diverse areas of our state which have unique demographics and needs and concerns.   These range from small rural districts to large urban cities.  Having district representatives assures all voices are heard and needs addressed while also providing respect for local control rather than top-down decisions made in allegiance to one who appoints.

Deborah Neary: It is the responsibility of each board member to listen to the constituents they represent, and to parents, students, teachers, & administrators, to develop policies that guide high quality education. I believe the elective process is more democratic and can prompt citizens to take greater interest when they feel their voices are heard. Education policies deserve to be thoroughly researched and discussed, and conform to no political agenda.

What can be done to ensure safety of students and teachers in our schools?

Pat McPherson: The board has adopted school safety standards but that’s not enough because of limited Department of Education personnel and funding.   The board must insist on better compliance in all of Nebraska’s 244 districts and 1100 schools.   The board must work with the legislature to provide stronger safety requirements for new buildings and funds for implementing improvements in existing schools.  Those schools that don’t adopt necessary changes must be held accountable through accreditation process.

Deborah Neary: I believe our Nebraska’s schools need resources to continue planning for the possibility of violence, to coordinate with law enforcement, and to secure their buildings from potential intrusion.  I also agree school districts need resources for increased numbers of mental health counselors, psychologists, and social workers able to identify and work with students whose behavior may include warning signs for potential violence.

How can the continuing education of teachers be supported?

Pat McPherson: Too many teachers get their teaching certificate and then choose to leave the classroom after only a short time because of lack of support or preparation.   Ongoing education should better reflect the challenges they face daily in their classrooms.  Providing continued education that helps recognize learning difficulties like dyslexia as well as mental and toxic stress issues would help them better cope with the challenges they face. Having the benefit of master teachers would also be beneficial

Deborah Neary: Quality teaching is the most important factor for student success in the classroom and it is imperative teachers have access to the supports they need. Professional development and continuing education opportunities are crucial to improving teaching skills. However, I do believe it is time for an NDE review of current processes regarding continuing education credits and increased compensation for teachers.  Successful models deployed in other states are available for consideration.

If elected, what two things do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your first year?

Pat McPherson: 1) I want to assure the board’s strategic plan continues to be implemented and that as we complete the second year of it this December that we have an unbiased third party evaluate our performance; 2) I want to make sure that the upcoming revision of the state’s social studies standards are rigorous, receive strong input from parents and business, reflect the uniqueness of our state and national governments and prepare students for civic life and community engagement.

Deborah Neary: The most urgent role of this board is to find ways to close achievement gaps and to provide teachers the supports they need to be successful in this goal. I will advocate for innovative measures that strengthen schools, uphold state standards, and continue the tradition of taxpayer oversight via elected board members.  And, I will advocate for more behavioral supports. We can review new delivery models for services that minimize out-of-classtime and provide cost efficiencies for districts.