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Cedar Co. voters will no longer go to the polls on election day

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Cedar Co. voters will no longer go to the polls on election day

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HARTINGTON — Cedar County residents will no longer need to go to the polls to cast their ballots on election day.

As one of his final acts before retiring from office, Secretary of State John Gale granted Cedar County Clerk Dave Dowling’s request to make Cedar County an all-mail voting county.

After last year’s General Election, Dowling applied for the designation to transform all of Cedar County’s 13 precincts into all-mail voting precincts.

Dowling said all-mail voting just makes sense.

“I’ve had a lot of people come to the counter asking why they can’t have a ballot mailed out to them without having to apply for it,” he said. “I got to thinking this is what the future is going to be, so why not just do this now.”

In making the decision, the Secretary of State’s office considered polling site accessibility, the counties’ ability to hire poll workers from different political parties, and community feedback before making the decision, said Wayne Bena, deputy secretary of state for elections.

Once Dixon County Clerk Cindy Purucker and Knox County Clerk JoAnn Fischer heard about Cedar County’s designation, they also applied for the status. They also earned the designation.

With the addition of Cedar, Dixon, and Knox counties, there are now seven Nebraska counties with all-mail elections. Garden County tested the county-wide all-mail system last May. Since then Dawes, Merrick and Morrill counties have also been named as all-mail counties.

The all-mail ballots eliminate the need for poll workers, polling places and auto mark machines, Dowling said, making the whole

process much more cost effective. It is also helpful to citizens who have to travel far distances to vote.

In the 2018 election, Cedar County had 27 election workers on the payroll.

Because of the designation, all 5,770 of Cedar County’s registered voters will be sent ballots 22 days prior to election day with postage pre-paid. Those ballots must then be returned to the Clerk’s office by election day.

“No matter what kind of an election it is, the Primary, General Election or a special election, ballots will be mailed out to all eligible voters from now on,” Dowling said. “You don’t have to lift anger basically. It’s very convenient.”

Cedar County has had all-mail voting in some precincts for quite some time, now. Dowling started with just a few all-mail precincts in 2012. In 2018, eight of Cedar County’s 13 voting precincts were all-mail precincts. Only the largest towns and villages in Cedar County still had polling places in 2018.

Besides the efficiency of the all-mail system, it has also proven to be better for voter turn-out Dowl- ing said.

“The voter turn-out for an all-mail precinct is so much better. It just about doubles the voter turn- out,” Dowling said.

In the eight all-mail precincts, 45.9 percent of registered voters voted in last year’s Primary Election. In the ve precincts with no mail ballots, only 27.6 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

Because of Cedar County’s success with the all-mail ballots and all the attractiveness of this system, Knox County decided to try the all-mail voting system in three precincts for the first time in last year’s Primary election.

The test went very well, Fischer said.

 

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