With election officials in Omaha scrambling to count thousands of ballots days after the polls closed, some election officials say Nebraska should consider joining Colorado, Oregon and Washington state in all mail-in voting. Douglas County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps said he and his counterparts in Nebraska’s larger counties have mulled such a change. Phipps believes the move would not only save taxpayers money by cutting the need for poll workers and polling place equipment, but would have averted the problem his office had in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District race this week when thousands of voters either mailed in their early ballots or dropped them off Monday and Tuesday. Early ballots — even those of voters who walk in — are sealed in signed envelopes that must be matched to voter paperwork for verification, then removed from the envelope for counting. Because so many came so late, it was impossible for election workers to process them all by late Tuesday, or even early Wednesday.
With only about 4,000 votes between incumbent Republican Rep. Lee Terry and Democratic challenger Brad Ashford, the more than 15,000 votes left to count meant the race was too close to call. Terry conceded the next day, but workers didn’t finish counting the votes until Friday.
Election officials noted that in a race for statewide office, such as governor, a razor-thin margin could mean that 15,000 uncounted ballots would keep the entire state waiting for days to learn who won.
Phipps said moving to an all mail-in vote also would allow him to place ballot counters in space now used for polling place equipment.