For decades, vote-by-mail has been a safe, easy, and convenient way for Nebraskans to cast their ballots. Any Nebraska voter can request an absentee ballot for any reason, while 11 rural counties employ all-vote-by-mail. Mix in a once-in-a-century pandemic in 2020 that provided many voters their first vote-by-mail experience, and it’s easy to see why nearly 40 percent of Nebraskans opted to vote by mail in 2022.
Simply put, vote-by-mail has been good for democracy by driving higher participation in our elections. You may ask: How does Nebraska compare to its sister states? According to an analysis by the National Vote At Home Institute, Nebraska’s rules, processes, and systems put our state near the middle of the pack.
The ratings, based on 15 key criteria, show Nebraska at No. 31, between Ohio and West Virginia. Nebraska’s current vote-by-mail score is 23 out of 65 possible points.
Our state’s elections get high marks for not requiring an excuse to receive an early mail-in ballot, for having a widely accessible network of dropboxes in all 93 counties, and for creating permanent vote-by-mail lists in many of our counties.
We score lower on other matters, such as the inability to request an early mail-in ballot online; for not providing prepaid postage for ballot return envelopes; and for not accepting late-arriving ballots postmarked on or before Election Day, among other areas.
Perspective: With the exception of Colorado (57 points), which conducts all-vote-by-mail elections, we compare favorably with neighboring states Kansas (29), Iowa (21), Wyoming (20), and South Dakota (19). Widening the peer-group lens a bit further, Nebraska comes in eighth among the 10 states that are currently home to Big Ten universities.
Civic Nebraska supports vote-by-mail expansion by allowing all of our state’s counties, regardless of size and beyond those under 10,000 in population, to be allowed to conduct elections by an all-vote-by-mail standard. We also support improving absentee voting by allowing voters to request their ballots online, and the inclusion of pre-paid postage on all early absentee ballot return envelopes.
Democracy is best served by meeting voters where they are – this means accessible, secure, vote-by-mail-friendly elections that include numerous and accessible in-person options to receive and cast our ballots.