COVID-19 or not, there’s still a primary election just under two months away in Nebraska.
While state election officials decide how to adjust the May 12 vote due to the novel coronavirus, Nebraskans may still register online to vote, and submit early voting requests for mail-in ballots.
“For those voters who have concerns about the spread of COVID-19, an online application and mail-in ballot is a good option,” Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen said in a press release last week.
Plans still call for the polls to be open for the primary, he added, but his office and county officials “are taking precautions to secure the safety of voters and poll workers.”
Lincoln County voters who aren’t yet registered or want to take the mail-in option may visit co.lincoln.ne.us/election-commission for information and online links to check their status and print out forms.
County Clerk Becky Rossell said it’ll be up to Evnen to inform her and other county election officials of any specific COVID-19 changes.
“For right now, we’re encouraging people to use online voter registration,” Rossell said. “If they want to get a jump-start on the early voting process, that’s available.”
If the state were to switch to an all-mail primary election, Rossell said, her staff has its recent experience from the recent North Platte Public Schools mail-in vote to fall back on.
They received and counted 6,265 completed ballots on and before March 10 in the first all-mail election for voters within North Platte’s city limits.
A total of 18,513 ballots were sent out by the Minnesota firm that produced them to the addresses listed by registered voters. A total of 1,038 blank ballots were returned as undeliverable.
Because early-voting ballots also must be returned to the clerk’s office, “counting them is not the issue,” Rossell said. “Getting them back in is not the issue.”
But the Minnesota firm “is probably trying to do elections all over the country,” so it’s unclear how they might handle a sudden switch to an all-mail primary, she added.
Rossell said the first early-voting ballots will be mailed out April 6 to voters who have requested them by then.
Additional ballots will be sent out as more requests come in, but all early-voting requests must arrive in Rossell’s office by 6 p.m. May 1 to be honored.
Besides the links on Rossell’s elections webpage, Nebraskans may visit the secretary of state’s elections page directly at sos.nebraska.gov/elections/elections-division.
Though people normally can register to vote while getting their driver’s licenses, Lincoln County’s Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles office closed March 18 until further notice due to the COVID-19 outbreak, its webpage says.
Completed voter registration forms returned by mail must be postmarked by April 24, but registrations may be submitted online through April 27, Rossell said.
Registration and early-voting forms must be physically signed but then may be scanned and mailed, emailed or faxed to county election offices, according to the secretary of state’s elections page.