Nebraska lawmakers overwhelmingly reject Trump-backed ‘winner-take-all’ electoral system | Nick Robertson/The Hill

An attempt to change Nebraska to a “winner-take-all” Electoral College system failed a key procedural vote late Wednesday, despite support by former President Trump, Gov. Jim Pillen and Sen. Pete Ricketts. Switching Nebraska’s Electoral College vote distribution in the Republican-dominated state would bring it in line with much of the rest of the country and could net Trump an extra vote this November, though an attempt to attach the bill to an unrelated measure as an amendment Wednesday failed by a significant margin. State Sen. Julie Slama led the amendment push, arguing on the floor that it was the best shot for the bill to pass this legislative session, which ends April 18. Just eight of the needed 23 legislators backed the vote. Read Article

Nebraska bill would hire a hacker to probe the state’s computer, elections systems | Margery A. Beck/Associated Press

Nebraska State Senator Loren Lippincott introduced a bill to Nebraska’s government committee proposing to allocate $200,000 to hire an “ethical hacker” tasked with probing the state’s computer network, including election equipment and software, to identify vulnerabilities. Inspired by his nephew’s similar work, Lippincott aims to pioneer this approach in cybersecurity for the state, although Missouri has engaged a company with “white hat hackers” for comparable services. Against the backdrop of escalating security concerns nationwide, including potential cyberattacks by foreign entities, the bill seeks to preemptively address vulnerabilities and enhance election security. Lippincott’s proposal coincides with an $11 million cybersecurity bill intended to empower the state’s chief information officer, local governments, and school districts to strengthen cybersecurity infrastructure and readiness, with both bills receiving support at the hearing and awaiting further committee deliberations. Read Article

Nebraska: Hand-counted election audit finds low error rate with voting machines | Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner

After facing months of questions about election integrity from populist Republicans, Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen — also a Republican — probed deeper to confirm his belief that the state’s voting processes were “reliable and accurate.” On Friday, his office released the results from an expanded audit of general election ballots, checking at least one precinct in all 93 counties. The audit hand-counted 48,292 ballots from 10% of precincts. That’s significantly more than the typical 2%-3% of precincts audited after each election. County election officials found a total of 11 ballot discrepancies, bolstering what Evnen and most political observers have consistently argued: that Nebraska’s vote-counting machines are accurate. The number of errors translates into one out of every 4,390 votes, or roughly 0.002%. That’s better than the one-tenth of 1% error rates of machine-scanned ballots that studies have found in other states. “There are Nebraskans who have expressed concerns about the integrity of the voting process,” Evnen told the Nebraska Examiner on Friday. “I thought it was important for us to address those concerns.”

Full Article: Hand-counted election audit finds low error rate with Nebraska’s voting machines | Nebraska Examiner

Nebraska Secretary of State Evnen: ‘No credible evidence’ that voting machines have been mistaken | Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner

Nebraska Secretary of State Robert Evnen, in often emphatic terms, rejected allegations Wednesday that the state’s ballot-counting machines could be hacked by “foreign adversaries.” Evnen, testifying toward the end of an afternoon-long public hearing, said Nebraska’s ballot-counting machines are never connected to the internet and are designed so they cannot be connected to the internet, so they cannot be “hacked.” He said the machines were recently certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, an independent U.S. government agency created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Beyond that, Evnen said each machine is subject to three runs of “test decks” of ballots before each election, to ensure their accuracy. “There is no credible evidence to show our ballot counting machines have rendered a false result,” said the secretary, whose office conducts the state elections. Evnen testified before the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs against a bill that would require extensive testing of each ballot-counting machine prior to an election to assure that it could not be somehow connected to the internet. Evnen, a conservative Republican seeking re-election this year, said Legislative Bill 1121 was unnecessary and would be an “astronomical” waste of taxpayer money. “I believe in the rule of law. I have dedicated my entire life and career to the rule of law,” Evnen said.

Full Article: Evnen: ‘No credible evidence’ that voting machines have been mistaken

Nebraska: Measures in Legislature would change electoral vote allocation, require voter ID | Martha Stoddard/Omaha World-Herald

As the nation struggles over its last election, a Nebraska lawmaker introduced two election measures Thursday guaranteed to generate battles here. Legislative Bill 76 would return Nebraska to the winner-take-all method of allocating Electoral College votes. Legislative Resolution 3CA is a constitutional amendment that, if passed by voters, would require photo identification for voting. State Sen. Julie Slama of Peru offered both proposals on the first day of bill introduction in the 2021 session. In a statement, she described them as “common-sense measures” that would improve the state’s election laws. “LB76 will end the practice of gerrymandering in our state for Electoral College votes and give all Nebraska voters a say in how our five Electoral College votes should be distributed,” she said. “LR3CA will give Nebraskans the opportunity to join 35 other states requiring an identification to vote and provide another layer of security for our elections.” Both drew sharp criticism from opponents, including the ACLU of Nebraska, the Holland Children’s Movement and the Nebraska Democratic Party. State ACLU Director Danielle Conrad drew a link between the proposals and “what we witnessed in our nation’s capital: leaders putting politicians over voters and perpetuating false narratives.” “Now more than ever, it’s incumbent on us all to fiercely protect our free and fair elections in Nebraska,” she said. “We need to expand — not contract — voting rights because every American knows voting is the cornerstone of our democracy and the fundamental right upon which all our civil liberties rest.”

Full Article: Measures in Nebraska Legislature would change electoral vote allocation, require voter ID | Politics |

Nebraska State Senator files complaint against Nebraska Attorney General and Secretary of State for joining Texas lawsuit | Kayla Wolf/Omaha World-Herald

State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha filed a disciplinary complaint against two top state officials Friday for adding Nebraska to a last-ditch Texas lawsuit over the presidential election. The complaint names Attorney General Doug Peterson, who signed on to a friend of the court brief in the case, and Secretary of State Bob Evnen, who publicly endorsed Peterson’s action. Both men are attorneys. Chambers submitted the complaint to the Nebraska Supreme Court’s counsel for discipline, who enforces professional conduct rules for attorneys. The veteran lawmaker, who earned a law degree but never took the bar exam, argued that Peterson and Evnen violated those rules by signing on to, or endorsing, an “action of such frivolousness as to constitute disrespect for a tribunal — the highest one in the land.”

Full Article: Chambers files complaint against Nebraska AG, secretary of state for joining Texas lawsuit | Politics |

Nebraska: Thanks to vote-by-mail option, more Nebraskans than ever cast their primary ballots | Martha Stoddard/Omaha World-Herald

Only 1 in 7 voters actually showed up at the polls for Tuesday’s primary, but total participation blew past all previous records. Secretary of State Bob Evnen reported Wednesday that more than 471,000 Nebraskans cast ballots in this year’s primary election. That’s well over the previous record of 413,015 voters, set in the 1972 primary. Of those, about 60,000 to 65,000 people voted in person, he said. About 80% or so took advantage of Nebraska’s early voting option to cast their ballots by mail. The remainder live in sparsely populated areas where all voting is by mail. “Nebraska voters refused to allow the terrible pandemic in our midst to stop them from exercising their right to vote, which is so precious to us all,” Evnen said. Voting by mail shot up this year after state leaders encouraged voters to use that option to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Toward that end, county election officials or the Secretary of State’s office sent early voting request forms to all registered voters.

Nebraska: Primary voters avoid polls, shatter mail-in record | Grant Schulte/Associated Press

Nebraska’s primary voters mostly steered clear of polling sites Tuesday while shattering the state record for absentee voting with nearly 400,000 mail-in ballots in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Republican President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic challenger Joe Biden sailed to easy victories in the election, the first in-person primary since a heavily criticized election in Wisconsin five weeks ago in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. So did Republican U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, who faced a GOP primary challenge because of his previous criticism of Trump. Sasse will face Chris Janicek, the owner of an Omaha cake-baking company, who won a nine-way Democratic primary Tuesday night. In a closely watched Democratic primary for an Omaha-based congressional district, voters chose progressive Kara Eastman over a more conservative candidate. Eastman will once again face Republican Rep. Don Bacon, as she did in 2018.

Nebraska: State Holds In-Person Primary Amid Coronavirus Pandemic | Grand Schulte/Associated Press

Nebraska on Tuesday will hold the nation’s first in-person primary since a heavily criticized election in Wisconsin five weeks ago in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Election officials have repeatedly urged voters to cast early, mail-in ballots, but Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts and Secretary of State Bob Evnen both pledged to forge ahead with an in-person primary even though many other states have rescheduled theirs or switched to all-mail voting. On Monday, Ricketts said members of the Nebraska National Guard will be on call help short-staffed polling sites in eight counties, including the Omaha and Lincoln areas. He said Guard members will be dressed in civilian clothes, not their normal uniforms. “They’ll be available to help out,” he said. A Guard spokesman said 135 members have gone through poll worker training but won’t be dispatched unless they’re requested. The counties that might have Guard members as poll workers are some of Nebraska’s hardest-hit: Dakota, Dawson, Douglas Hall, Lancaster, Lincoln, Madison and Scottsbluff.

Nebraska: State will open voting sites for primary despite concerns | Grant Schulte/Associated Press

Nebraska is forging ahead with plans to hold the nation’s first in-person election in more than a month, despite health concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and allegations that political motivations are fueling opposition to an all-mail approach. Barring an unexpected change, Nebraska’s primary will take place on May 12 — five weeks after Wisconsin held the last in-person balloting when courts sided with Republican legislators who pushed for that election to go forward. Republicans who hold all statewide offices and control the Legislature have encouraged people to cast early, absentee ballots. However, they argue state law requires polling sites to be open and that it’s important for voters to have a choice for how they vote, even amid health concerns. As Secretary of State Bob Evnen put it last month, “I don’t think Nebraskans are going to stay away from the polls or not vote because of a microbe.” Gov. Pete Ricketts agreed, arguing that to do otherwise would “disenfranchise voters who want to go to the polls,” and noting that elections were previously held despite wars and pandemics.

Nebraska: Primary still set for May | Jerry Purvis/Star Herald

Although state governments are dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Secretary of State Bob Evnen said the state is ready for the primary election scheduled for Tuesday, May 12. During a recent state briefing on the pandemic, Evnen reminded the public there’s no excuse not to vote. “Early mail-in ballot request applications are being sent to Nebraska voters by county election officials or by my office,” Evnen said. “The applications can be filled out and returned to county elections by fax, email or regular mail.” Early voting ballot applications began to be sent out to voters by the counties on April 6 and completed ballots must be received by the county election office by May 12. Voters may drop off their ballots at the secure voter drop box located at the county administration building. If voters haven’t yet received a ballot application, they have until May 1 to request one from the county.

Nebraska: Election officials raise concern about conducting primary | Steve White/KHGI

Elections are still on, but who will go to the polls, and who will staff them, as the virus spreads? While Hall County Election Commissioner Tracy Overstreet prepared for election commissioner, she was thinking of a computer attack, not a biological one. She could be forced to replace 94 of 127 poll workers who are at high risk because of their age, if the May primary election continues as scheduled. “I think the idea of masks on poll workers really put the fear in poll workers and we’ve been taking nothing but cancelations since that news conference last week,” she told the Hall County Board, referring to comments from the governor and secretary of state. The state is encouraging people to vote by mail. But there again, Overstreet says she doesn’t have the staff to process all the requests as office help has been forced to stay home and care for kids, or are quarantining themselves.

Nebraska: State Officials Say Nebraska Primary Will Not Be Delayed, Encourage Voting By Mail | Becca Costello/NET News

Nebraskans can already vote by mail in every county across the state – they just have to apply for the ballot ahead of time. Six counties are sending every registered voter an application for a mail-in ballot: Douglas, Lancaster, Cass, Gage, Buffalo, and Sarpy. Gage County Clerk and Election Commissioner Dawn Hill says her concerns about COVID-19’s impact on voting were growing in early March. “I had a little trouble sleeping one night and I thought maybe this is the answer — I’m going to send out applications for every active voter in my system to give everyone the possibility or the option to be able to vote,” Hill said. “I knew it was kind of a large task. But I felt that that was the right thing to do.” Hill says as long as in-person voting in May is still on the calendar, she has other concerns — like some of her usual poll worker volunteers who are worried about possible exposure. And one of the polling sites was supposed to be in an assisted living facility, so Hill is looking for a replacement site.

Nebraska: Elections official reveals Nebraska bought more cyber intrusion-detection technology | David Earl/KETV

A measure that would provide states with short-term cash to shore up their elections security infrastructure has stalled in the U.S. Senate. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) killed the measure, according to reporting by The Hill, to buy time to work on a counter proposal to the bill Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) tried to force legislators to debate. Requiring a paper record of cast ballots is among the measures Klobuchar wants, including hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to states to increase their cyber defenses. “This is a race that doesn’t have a finish line,” said Wayne Bena, Nebraska’s deputy secretary of state for elections in an exclusive KETV NewsWatch 7 interview. “We have a big election coming in 2020, but we also have one in ’22, ’24, ’26.” Bena argues Congress needs to find a lasting, long-term model to help states with their critical elections infrastructure. “Money is important,” he said. “But what I think is more important is the sustainability of that funding.”

Nebraska: Several Nebraska counties planning switch to all-mail elections | KHGI

A paperwork mix-up has a recall election on hold in Aurora, while they sort out the legal timeline to hold an election. When the vote does happen, Hamilton County may join a growing list of counties sending all ballots in the mail. County Clerk Jill DeMers said they’ve had problems finding folks to work at polling places. “Especially with the late harvest this year, there was one polling place I had one lady working. I made multiple calls and I did end up with three poll workers and one that could work part-time,” DeMers said. Hamilton County could neighbors to the north in Merrick County, by going to all-mail elections. “It’s a lot easier, a lot less stressful,” said Merrick County Clerk Marcia Wichmann.

Nebraska: Outdated voting machines spark election worries | Lincoln Journal Star

When the federal government offered money to help states buy new vote-counting machines in 2002, Nebraska officials jumped at the chance. Nebraska used its share of the funding to create a statewide election system with new equipment for all 93 counties — including some remote, low-income areas that still hand-counted their ballots. Now, with machines that are outdated and increasingly difficult to repair, Nebraska lawmakers are largely on their own. “There’s no question it’s going to be a very challenging legislative session in terms of appropriations,” Secretary of State John Gale said in an interview.

Nebraska: Counties Seek to Pilot Elections Entirely by Mail | Associated Press

More Nebraska county election officials are seeking state permission to conduct elections exclusively by mail as turnout figures rise. Garden County was the first in Nebraska to conduct a countywide all-mail election after receiving approval to pilot the project from the Secretary of State this year, the Lincoln Journal Star reported . Nebraska counties with populations of 10,000 people or fewer have had the option since 2009 to hold all-mail elections, if given state approval. More than 58 percent of Garden County voters cast a ballot in the May 15 primary election, compared to statewide voter turnout of about 24 percent.

Nebraska: For eighth year, voter ID amendment defeated in Legislature | Omaha World-Herald

Another year, another frustration for backers of requiring voter identification in Nebraska. State lawmakers on Thursday fell short of cutting off debate and advancing a proposed voter ID constitutional amendment. The vote marks the eighth year in a row that voter ID legislation has been blocked. State Sen. John Murante of Gretna, who introduced Legislative Resolution 1CA, said he is exploring the possibility of going directly to voters via an initiative petition drive. “This is not the end of the discussion,” he said. “There will come a day when the issue is taken out of the hands of legislators.” A second Murante proposal, which some dubbed “voter ID lite,” cleared first-round consideration later on Thursday after all of the voter identification provisions were stripped out.

Nebraska: Bill that would subtract noncitizens in redistricting count raises constitutional questions | Lincoln Journal Star

The new plan for drawing election boundaries looks a lot like the original plan settled on during a 1920 Nebraska Constitutional Convention, Sen. John Murante told the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Tuesday. The problem is the old plan requiring the state to count “the population excluding aliens,” or noncitizens, for the purposes of setting legislative district boundaries had been forgotten — or ignored — by the Legislature in recent memory. Murante’s solution (LB1115) hearkened back to Article III, Section 5 of the Nebraska Constitution. It removes the estimated number of non-U.S. citizens living in the state, according to the Census Bureau, from being counted for redistricting purposes.

Nebraska: Federal form gives incorrect info on felon voting rights in Nebraska | Omaha World-Herald

A federal voter registration form incorrectly instructs potential voters that no felons can vote in Nebraska. But, under state law, voting rights are automatically restored two years after felons complete their sentences. The Nebraska Legislature changed the law in 2005. The inaccurate instructions on the National Voter Registration Form were pointed out by the nonpartisan voter advocacy group Campaign Legal Center in a letter to Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale last month.

Nebraska: Voter ID opponents say measure would do more harm than good | Lincoln Journal Star

Sen. John Murante told the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday that a plan requiring Nebraskans to show identification before they vote would not exclude any legally entitled voters from casting a ballot. As part of Murante’s latest proposal (LB1066) to secure the state’s elections, as he put it, Nebraskans would also be entitled to receive a free government ID they could show to poll workers. LB1066 would work toward two goals Murante, of Gretna, said he wants to see accomplished in the state: preventing illegal votes from being cast while not turning anyone away from the polls who is eligible to vote.

Nebraska: While Voter ID Law is Pushed in Legislature, County Election Officials Say Voter Fraud is Not an Issue | NCN

While state lawmakers argue over the need for photo ID’s to stop allegations of vote fraud, folks we talked with want to know more. “I haven’t really heard much about it,” says Nebraska resident Justice Chwebach. “I have not heard it (voter fraud) before since you brought it up,” says Nebraska resident Theresa Veit. Ten county election commissioners interviewed by News Channel Nebraska say that in their combined 150-plus years on the job, showing a photo ID at the ballot box would not have prevented voter fraud, not once.

Nebraska: Voter ID, electronic poll books, alien verification all proposed | Lincoln Journal Star

Promising a “basket of options” for lawmakers to consider, Sen. John Murante on Wednesday introduced a trio of bills he said ensure future integrity in Nebraska’s elections without suppressing votes. As he promised in December, Murante once again introduced a voter ID bill (LB1066) that would require voters to present a current form of identification before they could vote. According to the bill, appropriate forms of ID include driver’s licenses, state, college or university-issued ID cards, passports or military IDs — which 97 percent of Nebraskans already carry, Murante said. Voters could apply to the Secretary of State’s office for a free photo ID that would comply with the state law, which would come at some cost to the state’s general fund, Murante said, particularly during a budget squeeze.

Nebraska: Not giving up on voter ID push, Senator plans to introduce new legislation | Omaha World Herald

A Gretna state senator is not giving up on bringing voter identification to Nebraska. Days after an opponent of voter ID visited Omaha, Sen. John Murante called a press conference Tuesday to say he plans to introduce a package of legislation with more than one option for enacting voter ID in the state. The details are still being worked out, and the senator did not offer specifics. “I am confident that these options will preserve the integrity of our elections without turning a single lawful voter away from the polls,” Murante said.

Nebraska: Voting rights activist says Nebraskans should ‘fight like crazy’ against voter ID laws | Omaha World Herald

Nebraska is a rare conservative-leaning state without a voter ID law, a voting rights activist said in Omaha on Thursday, and he suggested that Nebraskans work to keep it that way. Jason Kander of Let America Vote and a former Missouri secretary of state spoke at an event for the nonprofit Nebraskans for Civic Reform, which is run by State Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln. Kander told the gathering at Love’s Jazz and Art Center that his goal is to make sure there are political consequences for politicians who pass voter ID and similar laws.

Nebraska: Election technology in Nebraska is ‘extremely behind,’ senator says | Omaha World Herald

When Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse tells election officials from other states how votes are counted in Nebraska’s largest county, the responses vary. “Oh, that’s painful,” is one response. “How long did you work?” is another. “We like to say, ‘Well, 26 hours, but we loved every minute of it,’” Kruse told members of the Nebraska Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee during a hearing Thursday. In Douglas County, all of the ballots are brought to a central location and tallied. Kruse compared that with Birmingham, Alabama, where votes on election night are tallied at the precincts and results are reported in about four hours.

Nebraska: Lawmaker Speaks Out on Volunteer Ballot Collectors | Associated Press

A Nebraska lawmaker is concerned about the practice of ballot collection by third parties. Volunteers have been stationed outside Millard Public Schools in Omaha to collect completed mail-in ballots for the levy override election ending Nov. 14. The vote involves an extra 9-cent property tax levy authority for the school board, the Omaha World-Herald reported. Volunteer organizers said the effort is aimed at boosting turnout. They said they collect and turn in anyone’s ballot regardless of the person’s opinion on the override. Organizers said the effort is a matter of convenience in a time when people are less likely to possess stamps.

Nebraska: A look at redistricting in Nebraska | Lincoln Journal Star

Congressional and legislative redistricting is in the spotlight as we move closer to the next round of reapportionment that will follow on the heels of the 2020 federal census. What could be a landmark challenge of a partisan legislative redistricting plan in Wisconsin is now before a divided U.S. Supreme Court. Early hints suggest Justice Anthony Kennedy may tip the court toward a breakthrough ruling striking down excessively partisan redistricting plans. That could be a game-changer, although the court faces a difficult challenge in determining and defining what might be considered to be excessive. 

Nebraska: Gale says he’s against creating federal voter registration database, spells out conditions for release of voter data | Omaha World Herald

In a letter to a federal voting commission, Nebraska’s top election official said he’s opposed to the creation of a federal voter registration database. Secretary of State John Gale said access to a federal database of some kind, however, could help local and state election officials confirm death records, citizenship status and other statuses to maintain clean voter rolls. Gale sent the letter on Friday to Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the voting commission, to formally ask how the commission intends to use the voter data it requested.

Nebraska: Senators urge Gale to decline Trump’s voter information request | Lincoln Journal Star

Six state senators on Wednesday urged Secretary of State John Gale to decline to turn over personal data about registered Nebraska voters to the Trump administration. Nebraska needs to “protect the integrity of our elections and the security of our lawfully registered citizens,” they wrote Gale. “Public access to identifying information and partial Social Security numbers can lead to identity theft,” they said. “Protecting the personal and financial security of Nebraskans is important.”