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Protecting Election 2020 from Covid-19: A Toolkit for Nebraska Activists

If the Covid-19 pandemic continues into November, we will need to change our election practices to make sure voters don’t have to choose between their health and their right to vote. We have the solutions to make our elections both safe and accessible to all. And with this toolkit, you will know what reforms your state needs and where to focus your efforts.

Last Updated: August 21, 2020
Published: August 21, 2020

This is part of the Brennan Center’s Toolkits for Activists Across the Nation.

Jump to a section: 
Political Context  |  What's in Place and What’s Needed  |  Key Dates

Administering an election under pandemic conditions requires undertaking steps to keep voting accessible, safe, and secure. The guide below lays out the problems Covid-19 poses, what preparedness measures Nebraska has, and what changes are still needed. But first, we offer some political context for your advocacy.


Advocacy Focus: Local Reform

Local officials have a lot of responsibility over elections. They are a great place to focus advocacy efforts. Though state officials can make any of the changes in this toolkit, we highlight some examples of changes that local elections officials can also make with this symbol:🔸


Political Context

Below is a list of the relevant officials and information about the legislative session.

Governor: Pete Ricketts (R)  

Secretary of State: Robert B. Evnen (R)

Legislature: Legislature (R)

Legislative Session: The legislature last adjourned on August 13, 2020. Either the legislature or the governor can call a special legislative session.

Local Elections Officials: In Nebraska, a number of county officials share responsibilities for administering elections. You can look up individual county officials here.

What Nebraska Has and What’s Needed

Three priorities. There are three key areas where we need to shore up our elections systems for success during a pandemic: registration, mail voting, and in-person voting.

Registration

Covid-19 may disrupt the traditional ways Americans register to vote, like get out the vote drives or registering at government agencies. In the crucial weeks before the registration deadline, postal service disruptions may lead many registration forms to arrive at election offices after the deadline.

Preparatory Measures Nebraska Already Has Taken:

  • Online voter registration

Changes Still Needed:

  • Prepare to extend online and mail voter registration deadlines based on conditions in the state
  • Voter registration on Election Day

Voting by Mail

Because of Covid-19, long lines and crowds at the polls pose health risks not seen in previous elections. Allowing every citizen to vote by mail reduces the number of people at the polls on Election Day and decreases the exposure risk to Covid-19.

Preparatory Measures Nebraska Already Has Taken:

  • All voters can vote by mail without an excuse
  • No notary or witness requirement for return of mail ballot
  • No ID requirement to vote by mail

Changes Still Needed:

  • Online tool for requesting an absentee ballot (without mailing or e-mailing)
  • Provide pre-paid postage for voting by mail
  • Accept late-arriving ballots postmarked by Election Day
  • Provide post-election notice and cure opportunity for defects on absentee-ballot envelope, including signature mismatch or missing signatures
  • Send absentee-ballot applications to all voters who have not yet applied

In-Person Voting

Even with expanded mail voting opportunity, states cannot close polling places. To do so may disenfranchise voters without Internet and mail access, or those who do not wish to cast a ballot by mail. In-person voting must be done in accordance with health guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Preparatory Measures Nebraska Already Has Taken:

  • In-person early voting

Changes Still Needed:

  • Ensure sufficient polling places are open and resourced on Election Day🔸
  • Open more in-person early voting locations🔸
  • Take proper public health precautions to ensure safe polling places🔸
  • Hold training sessions for polling-place workers well in advance of Election Day, so that election officials can better anticipate problems with staffing and logistics🔸
  • Increase access to curbside voting at polling locations

Advocacy Focus: Protecting Polling Places

No matter how prepared Nebraska is as a matter of policy, elections officials and advocates must stay vigilant about ensuring safe, healthy in-person voting is an option for everyone all the way through Election Day. Here are some important things to know about who makes decisions about polling places in Nebraska and what rules govern the process:

  • State law provides that precincts shall contain 75 to 1,750 registered voters based on the last statewide general election. However, a precinct may contain less than 75 registered voters if the election commissioner or county clerk deems it necessary to avoid creating an undue hardship on the registered voters in the precinct.🔸
  • There is a presumption against altering or dividing existing precincts between the primary and general election.🔸
  • One voting booth must be provided in a polling location for approximately every 100 registered voters.🔸
  • State law provides that in any county with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, the county clerk may apply to the Secretary of State to mail ballots for all elections held after approval of the application to registered voters of any or all of the precincts in the county in lieu of establishing polling places for such precincts.🔸
  • County election commissioners may purchase any material, equipment, or service needed to meet any emergency in an expedited manner in order to comply with any election process.🔸

Key Dates for Nebraska Elections

  • April 24, 2020: Postmark deadline to register by mail for the Primary Election
  • May 12, 2020: Primary Election Day
  • October 5 - November 2, 2020: In-person early voting for the General Election at county elections offices
  • October 16, 2020: Postmark deadline to register by mail to vote in the General Election; deadline to register online or at the DMV to vote in the General Election
  • October 23, 2020: Deadline to submit a request for an absentee ballot to be mailed for the General Election
  • October 23, 2020: Deadline for in-person voter registration for the General Election
  • November 3, 2020: General Election Day