Voting precincts in rural Nebraska could see a jump in turnout if lawmakers pass a bill to expand the use of mail-only ballots, Secretary of State John Gale said Thursday. Gale told a legislative committee that counties which use mail-only voting have saved money because they’re no longer required to haul special equipment to polling sites to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s also helps turnout in areas with bad roads or bad weather on Election Day, he said. “It definitely improves the voter turnout because the ranchers and the farmers and small businessmen in those rural precincts are able to cast their ballot by mailing it back,” said Gale, a Republican. “It’s been very well-received by the citizens who are in those precincts.”
The bill by Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion would give all counties the chance to conduct elections by mail in certain rural precincts, if the state approves. Under current law, counties can only seek the state’s permission if they have fewer than 10,000 residents.
Smith said his bill is intended for precincts that aren’t able to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or that don’t have many voters. Counties that already have mail-only precincts have saved time and money, he said.
Some rural counties have switched to mail-in voting in nearly all of their precincts. In Cherry County, state law requires voters to cast ballots by mail in 17 of its 20 precincts. Ballots have to be sent to all registered voters in the 17 mail-only precincts outside of Valentine, so roughly half of the county’s voters don’t have to request one.