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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

OK, let's go vote now.

Nationally, there are decisions to be made about the future of our country. 

This election has an urgent, seminal feel to it; it sets the stage not only for the next two years, but it also may define who we are now.

With Republicans holding all the advantages in partisan contests in Nebraska, perhaps the most compelling contests here are the nonpartisan races for the Legislature and a voter decision on whether to approve Medicaid expansion, bringing health care coverage to food service and retail workers and other adults who comprise the state's working poor.

Here's an up-to-date look at Nebraska's political landscape provided by the Secretary of State's Office, a glimpse at the legislative election playing field:

Republicans hold a voter registration edge over Democrats in 40 of Nebraska's 49 nonpartisan legislative districts.

The nine districts that include more registered Democrats than Republicans are all located in Omaha and Lincoln.

The numbers in one Lincoln district are remarkably close.

There are nine more registered Democrats than Republicans in the 26th District, represented by Sen. Matt Hansen. The numbers are 9,791 to 9,782.

The disparity in a few districts is dramatic.

In the 11th District, represented by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, there are 14,376 registered Democrats and 2,159 registered Republicans.  

In the 43rd District, represented by Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, it's 17,504 Republicans and 4,232 Democrats.

In the 44th, represented by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango, the count is 17,089 to 3,804.

Statewide registration figures released by Secretary of State John Gale show 584,155 Republicans, 362,240 Democrats and 258,526 nonpartisans.

That's a huge, built-in, 200,000-plus advantage for statewide Republican candidates, a disparity that has transferred much of the recent political action in Nebraska to the Republican primary election. 

In the general election, it's hard for a Republican to lose.  

Nebraskans last elected a Democratic governor (Ben Nelson) more than two decades ago — it was 1994 — and a Democratic U.S. senator (Nelson) in 2006.

Color Nebraska crimson west of Omaha and Lincoln. 

* * *

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn scored 100 percent in a rating of conservative votes cast in the 2018 legislative session, heading a list of 17 Nebraska state senators cited for conservative voting records of 80 percent or higher.

The ratings were compiled by the American Conservative Union Foundation.

Other senators who scored above the 90 percent mark were Tom Brewer of Gordon, Tom Briese of Albion, Mike Groene of North Platte and John Lowe of Kearney.

The lowest rating on the conservative scorecard went to Hansen of Lincoln at 36 percent.

Other senators rated at 50 percent or lower were Roy Baker of Lincoln, Kate Bolz of Lincoln, Sara Howard of Omaha, John McCollister of Omaha, Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln and Lynne Walz of Fremont.

The overall average was 71 percent.

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"Conservatism is the political philosophy that sovereignty resides in the person," ACUF Chairman Matt Schlapp wrote in releasing the results. 

Government's essential role is to defend life, liberty and property, he said.

* * *

Finishing up:

* Nebraska Democrats will decide at a party gathering in Ord in early December whether to continue their presidential caucus or return to the presidential primary election as the vehicle for determining how Nebraska's votes at the national nominating convention will be cast. Early indications are that the caucus is likely to be scrapped.

* California Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox told the Los Angeles Times editorial board that the governor he would most like to emulate would be Pete Ricketts of Nebraska.

* Sen. Ben Sasse will address a Lincoln Chamber of Commerce luncheon audience on Thursday, two days after voters decide which party will control the Senate and the House.

* And a question: Why should political parties control the legislative branch of the people's government?

* Perhaps the ugliest evidence of partisan political interference in what should be the people's elections is governmental voter suppression, and there is plenty of evidence of that this year.

* During an interview on CNN, Chuck Hagel described President Trump's decision to move thousands of U.S. troops to the border as "folly ... political distraction of the highest magnitude," arguing that "to use them as political pawns like this for a complete fabrication is really wrong."

* ESPN chose to open the college basketball season with a blockbuster duo of Kansas-Michigan State and Duke-Kentucky on Election Night. Really?

* Husker football is getting better and better, and look who comes to Lincoln next year: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Northwestern.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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