Candidate campaign signs — most in patriotic colors — have sprouted along streets and in residential yards, giving notice that election season has arrived.
Tuesday is Lincoln's primary election day, when residents will pick the final two candidates for mayor, out of a field of five, and decide whether they want to pay a quarter-cent more in sales tax for six years.
Voters will also narrow the field in two of the four Lincoln City Council district races where there are three candidates. The four council seats representing the geographic quadrants of the city are part of this election.
The number of people voting early continues to increase. More than 18,400 voters had asked for mail-in ballots as of Thursday afternoon, 5,000 more than the mayoral primary four years ago, Lancaster County Election Commissioner David Shively said.
More and more people are voting early, he said. And he doesn’t know whether to expect a bigger turnout for this election or simply fewer people voting on election day.
If you haven’t mailed your ballot yet, Shively suggests hand delivering it to his office Tuesday.
Ballots must be in his office by 8 p.m. Tuesday when the polls close, and mail delivery inside the city generally takes two days, he said.
The mail goes to Omaha to be postmarked then returned to Lincoln for delivery.
In addition to the candidates, voters will weigh in on a six-year, quarter-cent increase in the sales tax that would be used for street construction and repair.
The quarter-cent ballot language is long, detailing some specifics of the plan, expected to bring in about $13 million a year.
None of the money can be spent on sidewalks, trails, traffic signs or bike lanes. At least 25 percent must be spent on new arterial streets to promote growth. Though it is not specified in the ballot language, city leaders have promised to spend most of the rest of the money on residential streets.
All the school board and airport authority positions have only one or two candidates, who will all continue to the general election. However, candidates who do well in the primary have a psychological advantage moving into the May 7 general election.
Shively expects at least one-quarter of the registered voters to cast ballots in the city primary.
In the last mayor primary, in 2015, about 24 percent of the voters cast ballots, or 36,854 voters, Shively said. He expects turnout to be larger this year because in addition to the open mayor's race, there are three open council seats and the sales tax ballot issue.
The largest city primary turnout in recent history was 2001, when almost 30 percent of voters turned out and a majority upheld a school levy lid.
People who are registered to vote in the county but have moved and not changed their address for voter registration can still vote, Shively said.
They should go to the polling place for their new address and vote using a provisional ballot.