Election to fill Fortenberry seat could come at high cost to Nebraska counties

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Nebraska hasn’t had a special election for a congressional seat since the mid-1950s, until now.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry announced his resignation over the weekend after he was found guilty on three federal charges, prompting a special election sometime in the next few months.

“Having a candidate in the congressional race is something a little bit more unique for us in Lancaster County and here in Nebraska, and I would even say nationwide,” said Dave Shively, the Lancaster County election commissioner. “There are 435 congressional seats throughout the country, and we don’t have very many resignations.”

Gov. Pete Ricketts, who will set the specific date of the election, has not yet announced when it will be, but the Secretary of State’s Office believes that answer will come in the next few days.

Ricketts has to pick a date within 90 days of the vacancy, which means the special election will be held by the end of June.

Shively is anticipating a packed schedule for the foreseeable future.

“So that means we get done with May primary, May 10th, and all of the cleanup work that we do after that and move right into a special election in June,” he said. “It’s going to keep us pretty busy for the first part of the summer.”

The Secretary of State’s Office said the funding for the special election will come from Nebraska counties, which means the counties’ taxpayers.

Shively predicts the special election to fill Fortenberry’s seat until the November election will cost Lancaster County about $300,000.

“For a normal election like a primary election or a general election, I estimate around $300,000,” he said. “That can go either direction depending on the number of people we have vote early or that type of thing.”

“But certainly, this will be something a little bit new and unique for us and it may be a little higher than $300,000,” he said.

With the primary, special election, and general election, Shively said the Election Commission could see a record year for cost.

Channel 8 reached out to Ricketts’ office. A spokesperson said more information on the special election will be released Thursday, when Fortenberry’s resignation goes into effect.

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