Nebraskans would have five fewer days to walk into an election office and cast early ballots under a bill advanced Thursday by the Legislature. But Legislative Bill 271 aims to make it possible for everyone, both visually impaired and not, to vote at that time. State Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha, who introduced the bill, said it should bring Nebraska into compliance with a federal law about voting access for disabled people. “This is not meant to keep anyone from voting,” he said. “This is meant to address a complaint of alleged discrimination.”
Last fall, Nebraska was found in violation of the Help America Vote Act requirement that every polling place have equipment to assist visually impaired people to cast secret ballots.
Fatos Floyd of Lincoln filed a complaint after being told she could not cast an early secret ballot because the equipment had not been programmed yet.
While early voting started Oct. 1, Lancaster County election officials told her the equipment would not be ready for 10 days to two weeks.
Nebraska uses AutoMark machines, which can enlarge the type on ballots or read the choices to voters, who listen with headphones. Voters make their choices using buttons on the machines, which then print out a ballot that can be scanned with all other ballots.
Secretary of State John Gale, based on the recommendation of a hearing officer, sought to reduce the number of days for in-person early voting to 25, down from the current 35 days.