Evnen faces two challengers in GOP primary for Nebraska Secretary of State

Opponents dispute that elections have been fair

By: - May 6, 2022 5:36 pm

(Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

LINCOLN — Incumbent Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen is being challenged in the Republican primary by two candidates who claim the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.

The race is being spiced by claims that voter fraud has occurred under Evnen’s watch, and counterclaims by the first-term secretary of state that all allegations have been investigated and refuted.

Secretary of State Robert Evnen
Secretary of State Robert Evnen
(photo courtesy of Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office)

Candidates Robert Borer of Lincoln and Rex Schroder of Palmyra both insist that President Joe Biden did not win the voting in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District — a race he won by more than 22,000 votes — and should not have been awarded the one electoral vote from that district.

Trump ‘partly won’

“Donald Trump didn’t win Nebraska, he partly won — we had one electoral vote stolen from us,” said Borer, a 63-year-old retired Lincoln firefighter.

Both Borer and Schroder, a 49-year-old small business owner and former Palmyra fire chief, claimed to find several instances of fraudulent votes after making public information requests of the Secretary of State’s Office, Nebraska Attorney General’s Office and others.

 “Stuff just didn’t line up,” Schroder said.

But Evnen, a 69-year-old attorney from Lincoln, said that his office has investigated every allegation of voter fraud it has received, as well as other claims it learned about, and “haven’t found any validity or merit to any of them.”

‘Fake vs. Fact’

In March, he published a 20-page PowerPoint presentation entitled “Fake vs. Fact” that addresses, one by one, claims that voting is rigged, voter registration lists are inaccurate and the state’s voting counting machines have been corrupted.

Robert Borer
Robert Borer of Lincoln, candidate for Nebraska Secretary of State (Courtesy of Robert Borer campaign)

 “There’s a lot of speculation about what could happen, but there isn’t any evidence that it did,” Evnen said. “There’s lots of evidence it didn’t.”

Both Borer and Schroder said that if elected, they would immediately cancel the state’s contract with Omaha-based Election Systems & Software to provide vote-counting machines for Nebraska and would switch to hand-counting of ballots, by mostly volunteers, at the precinct level.

Borer said the government used “the scamdemic” to infringe on people’s constitutional rights and to steal the election via unsupervised ballot drop boxes and not extensive tracking of the “chain of custody” of mail ballots.

What did we see the last two years? Rank infringement, rank denial and rank tyranny. It was about scaring people to death,” he said.

Fraud in ‘every county’

He claimed that “statisticians” who have analyzed the 2020 election results have found fraud in every county.

Evnen, in his PowerPoint subtitled “Setting the Record Straight about Nebraska Elections,” and in an interview, disputed that. 

One claim was that the vote count for Trump declined several times on election night. But Evnen said that was a mistake made by a third-party vendor for the New York Times and not one repeated in the official count from the Secretary of State’s Office.

Another claim was that 10 Nebraska counties had more registered voters than population. Evnen said that there were five counties like that, and all were small, rural counties.

Rex Schroder
Rex Schroder, Republican candidate for Nebraska Secretary of State
(Courtesy of Schroder campaign)

He that happens because voters cannot be removed from the voter rolls until they haven’t voted in two federal elections. There are also college students who are registered at home but are counted in the census at their college location, Evnen said, contributing to slightly more registered voters than population.

‘Common practice’

Borer said he could prove that there was fraud in the 2020 elections if Evnen would “give me the keys” to the vote-counting machines.

Evnen said that the contract with ES&S requires “penetration and vulnerability scans” by an independent tester, and that making those scans public could lead to improper and nefarious use of the information.

“It is a common practice, and a best practice, not to disclose results of penetration and vulnerability scans,” Evnen said in the “Fake vs. Fact” presentation.

Borer filed a conflict of interest complaint on April 25 against Evnen over the “Fake vs. Fact” PowerPoint — which is posted on a state website — saying that the secretary of state was using state resources to produce campaign “talking points.”

Evnen, when asked about the complaint, said that “there are some people who don’t like when we put out information that runs counter to their claims.” The complaint is still pending with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission.

Schroder also disputes that Evnen has “run to the ground” all claims of voting irregularities in Nebraska. Schroder said he would order a full forensic audit of at least the 2020 vote in Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster Counties.

‘Not establishment’

“I am not an establishment, crooked politician. I’m just your average guy who’s ticked off,” Schroder said. 

He said he would virtually eliminate absentee voting, limiting it to those serving in the military and the elderly living in nursing homes who could not make it to a polling place.

Schroder said that the millions saved by canceling the ES&S contract could be used to pay people to hand count ballots if not enough volunteers could be found.

Despite the criticism from Borer and Schroder, Evnen, a former counsel to the Nebraska Republican Party, is endorsed by two dozen state senators, including Sen. Tom Brewer, who heads the state legislative committee that handles election integrity. Evnen is also endorsed by Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Backs voter ID

Evnen said he supports requiring voter identification and returning Nebraska to a winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes. He was successful this year in getting legislation passed that ensures greater security of ballot drop boxes and bans private funding of elections.

He said he was unaware, until later, that Lancaster County had accepted funds from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to help pay for costs of the 2020 election but said such donations are wrong. At least one group, Civic Nebraska, defended the acceptance of the so-called “Zuckerbucks,” saying the money was used to pay for COVID-19 protective gear for poll workers.

If campaign spending is any indication, Evnen is not taking the primary race for granted.

He has spent about $153,000 so far in his re-election bid, according to reports filed with the state Accountability and Disclosure Commission. His fund-raising included a personal loan of $20,000, as well as a $15,000 donation from the Nebraska Realtors Association. (The secretary of state serves as the chair of the Nebraska Real Estate Commission.)

Borer raised $39,000

Borer has raised about $39,000 for his challenge and spent about $31,000, mostly on campaign signs and radio advertising.

His biggest contribution has been $5,000 from Regier Equipment of Madrid, Nebraska.

Schroder did not file a campaign spending report, which is required only if a campaign raises or spends at least $5,000 in one year.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.

MORE FROM AUTHOR