What if? A guide to early voting-at-home

Early vote-at-home ballots are hitting mailboxes this week. Here are answers to some of the most-asked questions about how it all plays out.


Here we go, Nebraska. On Monday, Sept. 28, election officials began to send vote-at-home ballots to voters who have requested them. We detect just a tiny bit of enthusiasm this year – and because so many Nebraskans have opted to use early vote-at-home ballots, the “what-ifs” of early mail-in voting are on a lot of minds right now.

What if …

Every voter in my household requested an early mail-in ballot at the same time – but we’re not receiving our ballots at the same time? Some of us received our ballots in the same mail delivery, but others haven’t gotten them yet.

The most likely answer is that it’s just a matter of postal processing. If, say, your husband and your 18-year-old daughter receive their early ballots in the same mail, but yours didn’t also arrive in your mailbox the same day, give it time. Election officials suggest you wait to receive two more days’ mail for your ballot. If it still isn’t in your mail after that, contact your local election office.

What if …

I want to know if my early vote-at-home ballot arrived safely? And whether it was accepted?

You can track your early vote right here. If you need a shortened link, it’s bitly.com/NebVoteCheck. Put in your name and county in the top boxes on the page, then click on your name. On the next form that appears, provide your birthdate and you can see your ballot’s status. Easy peasy.

What if …

I want my early vote-at-home ballot to be counted as early as possible so it can be reported on Election Day?

First, a word about why we’re getting questions about this. In our current political climate, there have been some predictions – especially in the race for president – that the picture of who is winning right after the polls close on Election Day (based on in-person returns) may shift dramatically as significant numbers of early vote-at-home ballots continue to be counted in the days following Nov. 3.

So, does returning your vote-at-home ballot as early as possible increase the possibility of it being counted on Election Day? Nebraska law says that, at the discretion of the election commissioner or county clerk, the count of early mail-in ballots can begin no earlier than 24 hours before polls open on Election Day. This year, that means counting can start on 8 am CST Monday, Nov. 2. It’s then a matter of how many early vote-at-home ballots have been counted by 8 pm CST the next day, when Nebraska’s polls close. 

This is also a good time to remind everyone that vote-at-home results are never reported until after polls close. We know you’re fired up to cast your ballot and for it to be tallied. We’d ask you to heed the advice of modern and robust musician / Guns ‘N’ Roses ballad-coverer Chris Cornell in this case:

What if …

I want to go pick up my early vote-at-home ballot rather than wait for it to get mailed to me?

If you’ve requested one by mail, it’ll come to you by mail. If you have questions about when it’ll be delivered to you from your county election officials, you can contact them directly. Our larger counties are dealing with large volumes of early vote-at-home ballot requests and so it might take them a bit longer than usual to get through all the new requests – for example, Douglas County on Monday sent out ballots to voters who requested them before Aug. 24. Bottom line: If you don’t see your ballot right away, it’s not a reason for panic.

What if …

I want to wait a bit before returning my ballot?

That’s cool. Technically, you have until 8 pm CST on Election Day, Nov. 3 to return it (by that point, only by dropbox). We’re encouraging voters to help “flatten the curve” for the U.S. Postal Service and our dedicated election workers so they don’t have a late wave of early ballots to deliver and process, respectively. But if you’re still mulling your choices, you have some time. We recommend the following dates when it comes to early vote-at-home voting:

> Whether or not to mail in a request for an early vote-at-home ballot: Tuesday, Oct. 6 (the actual request deadline is 6 p.m. Oct. 23, but we want to give our USPS workers as much time as possible). After that, dropbox it.

> To mail an early vote-at-home ballot back to election officials: Tuesday, Oct. 20 (again, to give USPS time as possible to get it in election officials’ hands). After that, dropbox it.

> Bookmark our Key 2020 Election Dates in Nebraska page for more information.

What if …

I just wait to take it to my neighborhood polling place on Nov. 3 and hand it to a poll worker, just to make sure it gets counted?

You’ll get it handed back to you, and instructed to take it to a designated ballot drop box in your county. You should not – repeat, should NOT – take an early mail-in ballot to an in-person polling place on Election Day. You must take it in person either to your county clerk/election commissioner’s office or to an official election dropbox on Election Day.

What if …

I have a problem with my ballot between now and Election Day and need legal advice?

Call our Election Protection Line at 402.890.5291. It’s available on weekdays from 10 am to 5 pm. We have election attorneys who can point you in the right direction so that your voice is heard. You can also text that number your election-related questions. And, you also can email our Voting Rights Team at elections@civicnebraska.org.


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