Mail-in ballots economical, but fail to build community

A small county in Nebraska is voting by mail to reduce voting costs, but some miss Election Day camaraderie.

Mail voting often reduces costs and improves voter turnout, but residents of some rural
communities say their sense of community is dwindling
with the removal of in-person polling locations.

Residents of Cherry County, Neb., which at 100 miles wide is the
state’s geographically largest county, miss election days when neighbors
gathered to vote.

“You did more than just vote. You sat and visited with people,” said
rancher Paul Young, adding it wasn’t uncommon for cake, pie and coffee
to be served at the school polling place that closed seven years

Tom Elliott, the county’s election commissioner, agreed, but says
the switch is an economically better way to run elections. The switch to vote-by-mail has allowed the county to trim 121 Election Day employees.
“We all enjoyed that traditional aspect of going to the polling
place,” Elliott said, adding that the conclusion was foregone.

By Emily Nohr, News21

Polling stations to reopen in Nebraska’s largest city

Voting locations in Douglas County, Neb., will reopen in November, following the election commissioner’s order this year to close about half the polling precincts.

Twenty-seven polling places will reopen for Election Day, commissioner Dave Phipps said.

The announcement came after 166 of 353 original polling precincts in Douglas County, which includes Omaha, Nebraska’s largest city, were closed before the May 5 primary.

Phipps cited budget constraints and trimming precincts, he said, would save the county $115,000. Many Omaha groups criticized the decision, which is allowable under a Nebraska statute adopted last year.

“It would save money, but the details are that it disproportionately closed polling places in the two strongest Obama voter areas. What a coincidence?” said Preston Love Jr., a community activist who works with the voting rights group North Omaha Voters Call to Action Coalition.

In 2008, North Omaha, a predominantly black community that encompasses Nebraska’s second congressional district, gave then-candidate Barack Obama its electoral vote. The last time a Democrat received one of Nebraska’s electoral votes was Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Nebraska and Maine are the only states where electoral college votes are awarded to congressional districts.

By Emily Nohr, News21