AP: Libertarian Party sees surge of new voters in Nebraska

The following was published by Grant Schulte Associated Press on October 16, 2016.

Voter disgust with the presidential election could give a boost to Nebraska’s Libertarian Party.

Although it’s still dwarfed by the Republican and Democratic parties, the Libertarian Party has seen a 28 percent increase in voter registrations since the state’s May primary. The number of registered Libertarians is on pace to top 10,000 before the Nov. 8 election, and a state senator who recently joined the party is using her experience as a former GOP political activist to teach its members how to campaign.

“It has a different feel from the third-party campaigns of the past,” said Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete, who switched her affiliation from Republican to Libertarian in May.

Libertarian activists have set up phone banks and are building a volunteer network to knock on doors. The party recently purchased campaign software to track and communicate with registered voters. They’re also using a “text blasting” app to communicate with young voters, a tactic borrowed from former Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

Party activists are focusing more on local government races and setting up new county chapters to recruit candidates. Libertarian Ben Backus, who ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2014, is expected to win a seat on Gering’s City Council after his primary opponent withdrew from the race. The party is also fielding candidates for the Scotts Bluff and Washington county commissions.

Activists said their strategy is twofold: In local government, they can influence policies that affect people directly, such as property and sales tax rates. It also helps them gain experience and name recognition that could help them run for higher state offices.

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