The continued popularity of early mail-in voting in Nebraska in the most recent midterm elections is an opportunity for officials and lawmakers to invest in making the absentee ballot process even better, a Civic Nebraska report shows.
“The increasing use of absentee and early voting illustrates that these voting methods make it possible for many voters to comfortably and conveniently cast their ballots, especially voters who otherwise might not participate in elections,” states the 2022 Civic Nebraska Election Protection Report, released today. “Policymakers should continue to embrace and expand this convenience that is clearly popular among Nebraska voters.”
This past fall, 264,478 Nebraskans cast early ballots – setting a record for a midterm election, and representing a nearly 30 percent increase in early participation from four years earlier. Early voters made up roughly 40 percent of the state’s overall electorate.
For election officials, the report suggests specific improvements that include:
›› examining the current absentee voting request process to identify opportunities for efficiencies, improved processing, and fulfillment of absentee ballot request forms;
›› improving ballot-tracking software and notifications to voters upon receipt of ballots; and
›› implementing permanent early voting lists and providing clear communication about the process to vote from home.
For lawmakers, the report’s suggestions also include:
›› allowing all Nebraska counties, regardless of size and beyond only those under 10,000 in population, to request conducting elections by an all-vote-by-mail standard;
›› implementing automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles;
›› establishing day-of voter registration on Election Day to reduce the need for and administration of provisional ballots;
›› improving absentee voting by allowing voters to request their ballots online; and
›› including pre-paid postage on all early absentee ballot return envelopes.
Civic Nebraska’s 16-page report detailed both successes and issues with the state’s Nov. 8 general election, according to election data, facts collected from dozens of poll observers across the state, and calls to its Election Day hotline.
Despite pre-election concerns about voter intimidation, there were no reports of any such issues at the polls in November. There also were zero reports of voting machines breaking or being unusable, while observers noted that poll workers were helpful and knowledgeable.
The most common issue for Nebraska midterm voters involved outdated voter registration and being at the wrong polling place. This resulted in provisional voting, often known as the “ballot of last resort,” which leads to increased costs and extra work for election officials.
“There is a clear need to provide more education about voter registration year-round,” the report said. “One technique may be to work with agencies that help people moving to new housing and to prompt new residents to update their voter registration alongside other services’ address updates.”
Out of 1,242,940 registered voters in Nebraska, 682,716 – or 54.93 percent – participated in the Nov. 8 election. It was the second-largest midterm election in the state’s electoral history.