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Nebraska counties seek to pilot elections entirely by mail

May 29, 2018 GMT

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — More Nebraska county election officials are seeking state permission to conduct elections exclusively by mail as turnout figures rise.

Garden County was the first in Nebraska to conduct a countywide all-mail election after receiving approval to pilot the project from the Secretary of State this year, the Lincoln Journal Star reported .

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Nebraska counties with populations of 10,000 people or fewer have had the option since 2009 to hold all-mail elections, if given state approval.

More than 58 percent of Garden County voters cast a ballot in the May 15 primary election, compared to statewide voter turnout of about 24 percent.

Before this month’s primary, some of the county’s voters used to have to drive up to 40 miles (64 kilometers) to cast a ballot at one of the county’s four precinct sites.

Teresa McKeeman, county clerk and election commissioner, said ensuring precincts were properly staffed along with hiring and training poll workers can be difficult.

Other county election officials have also applied to expand all-mail elections in rural precincts to a county level.

Kathy Brandt oversees Morrill County’s elections. She said voter turnouts have topped 70 percent in the precincts where ballots have been distributed through the mail.

Conducting a mail-in election is more work on the front end for the clerk’s office, but results show the effort is worth it, according to county election commissioners.

“We have seen voter turnout go up,” Dawes County Clerk Cheryl Feist said. “It’s a convenience for our voters when they have the ballots before the election to have time to look at them and look at the candidates and issues before they make a choice.”

Brandt said it’s more cost-effective.

“We don’t have to pay poll workers, don’t have to pay their mileage or to rent polling sites,” she said. “We’re only paying postage.”

Morrill County and Dawes County are requesting state approval to pursue all-mail countywide for November’s general election.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com