It’s an infodemic on top of a pandemic: Repeated political attacks on the vote-by-mail process, a scrambled terminology, and, now, worrisome headlines about the U.S. Postal Service have spawned doubt, confusion, and concern about voting by mail. Inoculate yourself and others with these eight facts, and carry on.
1. You must request a mail-in ballot before every election.
If you wish to vote early by mail in Nebraska, you must first fill out a request form to do so. You must do this before each election. The first day early mail-in ballots could be requested for the November 2020 election was July 6. Go to civicnebraska.vote and we can help you obtain a request form.
2. If you’re registered to vote in Nebraska, you’ll automatically get a request form for a mail-in ballot.
Election officials in Nebraska’s three largest counties – Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy – are sending all registered voters in their counties a form to request an early mail-in ballot. On Aug. 19, Secretary of State Robert Evnen said the state also would send vote-by-mail application cards to all registered voters in all other Nebraska counties. So if you’re registered, you’ll get an application to vote by mail.
In counties other than Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy, request forms should start to arrive after Labor Day. You don’t have to wait for that card to come in the mail, though. You can take it upon yourself to get a request form and submit it as soon as you like. Again, we can help.
3. After requesting your ballot, look for it to arrive after Sept. 28.
The first day that county election officials can send ballots out to those who have requested them is Sept. 28. Watch your mail after this date for your ballot. If you have concerns about the arrival status of your ballot, call your county election office.
4. There’s no difference between ‘absentee voting,’ ‘voting by mail,’ or ‘voting at home.’
You may be hearing several different terms – absentee voting, early mail-in voting, vote-by-mail, vote-at-home, etc. This time-honored practice goes by many names, but it is all the same thing: You request your mail-in ballot, you get your mail-in ballot, you send back your mail-in ballot. And it’s proven, reliable, and secure.
5. You don’t need to explain why you want to vote-by-mail.
Nebraska is a “no excuse” state, meaning we place no unnecessary burdens on requesting an early ballot.
6. Much of the noise about fraud, errors, and partisanship is just that – noise.
But we understand if you’re concerned.
First, know that voting by mail is extremely secure. If you need more facts and insight on this, we’ve addressed it at length in prior blog posts: 1, 2 (TL; DR version: Fraud is difficult and extremely rare, and errors with vote-by-mail are also extremely rare. Also, vote-by-mail doesn’t benefit one ideology or the other).
What about the controversy with the U.S. Postal Service? If you’re already decided on candidates and issues, help flatten the ballot curve for our postal workers by return-mailing your ballot as quickly as possible once you’ve received it. Right now, postal officials in Nebraska suggest a 15-day window to ensure on-time delivery. We’re suggesting your drop-dead deadline to get your completed ballot in the mail should be Oct. 20, simply to provide our postal friends some cushion. Bottom line: Don’t delay.
If you want to be absolutely sure that your ballot is received as quickly as possible, you can always take it to one of your county’s official dropboxes. Do this after Oct. 20 for sure. You have until 8 p.m CST Nov. 3 to drop it off. All 93 Nebraska counties have at least one dropbox. After you do so, you can track the status of your ballot here.
7. No matter how you want to vote, you first have to be registered.
There are two dates you absolutely, positively need to know for this.
– If you wish to register online to vote in Nebraska, you must do so by 11:59 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. You will need a valid ID in the precinct in which you will vote to register online. Registering online in Nebraska takes about 10 minutes.
– If you wish to register in person at your county’s election office, you get one additional week. That means you have until 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, to get there and get it done.
8. Staying informed and fighting the infodemic is essential this year.
So stay informed. Our Election 2020 Central features important dates in the 2020 election, videos about your rights as a voter, volunteer opportunities, and even more answers to frequently asked questions about participating in the 2020 election. Share it, bookmark it, and check it often. And don’t forget to VOTE!