Nebraska’s voting equipment is becoming outdated and needs to be replaced to ensure elections run smoothly, county officials and advocates said Monday. Election commissioners from Douglas, Sarpy, Lancaster and Hall counties raised the concern in a legislative hearing but told lawmakers they’re waiting until Nebraska officials decide whether to switch to statewide mail-in voting. Nebraska’s election system faces challenges because many of the state’s smallest counties can’t afford the technology upgrades. Some county voting machines rely on antiquated technology, such as 1990s-era Zip drives, to help tabulate votes. Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse said one of the machines in his office stopped working on election night 2016, and others experienced problems. Kruse said his county’s commissioners generally support a switch to statewide mail-in voting, which would reduce costs and save storage space that’s required for precinct voting machines.
Sarpy County Election Commissioner Wayne Bena said lawmakers will have to act in next year’s session if they want new technology in place by the 2018 elections. Otherwise, he said counties won’t have replacement machines in place until 2020 — a presidential election year when turnout is higher and problems with the equipment are likely to have a larger impact.
Keeping the equipment up to date will help ensure “we don’t become Florida,” he said, referring to that state’s 2000 recount that determined the presidential outcome. “We’re not in a crisis mode right now,” Bena said. “However, we are near the end of the life cycle of the equipment we currently have.”