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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