Lawmakers need to look seriously at replacing Nebraska’s election equipment even though it could cost the state $20 million to $30 million, a leading senator said Wednesday. Sen. John Murante of Gretna said the current equipment is on pace to fail and create major headaches for counties, which are responsible for administering elections. “We simply cannot do nothing,” said Murante, the chairman of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. “That is not an option.” His comments during a legislative hearing drew support from Secretary of State John Gale, who said the state should continue covering the cost rather than counties.
Gale said many smaller counties can’t afford the technology and would have to revert to hand-counting ballots if their equipment failed. Some county voting machines rely on antiquated technology, such as 1990s-era Zip drives, to help tabulate votes.
Senators presented bills at the hearing that would allow counties to conduct vote-by-mail elections and legalize optical scanners, among other changes. Most are unlikely to advance this year because of a projected $288 million shortfall, but Gale said state officials should consider new equipment a major priority.
“It’s unfortunate our revenue situation is where it’s at,” he said.