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Elections are safe here

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Area officials say all-mail elections haven’t caused any issues

HARTINGTON — Area officials say using the U.S. Postal Service for elections is a safe and efficient way to run an election, despite a national debate over the safety of all-mail elections.

Eleven of Nebraska’s 93 counties use the allmail system, rather than election day in-person voting.

In the 2020 Nebraska Primary Election, the early voting number was 383,542 and By-Mail Precincts totaled 31,820 votes, the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office reports.

Cedar County Clerk Dave Dowling has used the vote-by-mail system in several Cedar County precincts since 2014. In 2018, the entire county was switched over to the system, which cut costs and sped up the counting process.

“Overall it is a very efficient and safe, secure way of voting,” Dowling said. “We have been doing it long enough now that it works great in this county.”

Nationwide, there is talk about mail election fraud, but Dowling said Nebraska has a good system.

Dowling said there are several safety measures in place, including bar coding, and signature varification.

“I don’t see how that is possible in Nebraska,” he said. “Every voter has a barcoded ID and when the ballot is returned we scan the barcode on the envelope and their record comes up on a state-wide database. We also compare the signature on the envelope with the signature on the original voter registration, along with the address.”

“The good thing is we make sure everyone receives the correct ballot and, as if at the polls, if a voter makes a mistake, they can bring their ballot in and get a replacement,” Dowling said.

In the 2018 elections, Dowling said there were fewer than 10 ballots that came in after election day and could not be counted.

Knox County Clerk JoAnn Fischer switched that county to all-mail voting in 2018, as well. Fischer said her staff takes every measure possible to make sure voter fraud does not happen.

“I don’t know how the states that have entire By-Mail elections handle the verification, but I believe my office goes over and above on this for the safety and integrity of our elections here in Knox County,” Fischer said. “We are very diligent about verifying the signatures on the return ballot envelopes. I compare the signatures to the voter registration that is loaded on our computer system along with real estate records, personal property schedules, court documents, checks, other county court records, marriage licenses, prior election sign-in logs, and prior early ballot applications.

Fischer said her office scans in the return envelopes from prior elections so those signatures are available to compare with by pulling up the voter’s record on their election computer system.

In case of any potential legal challenges, Dowling said his office is required to keep all ballots for 22 months after the election.

“We don’t discard any ballots. We keep everything by statute for 22 months after the election,” he said.

Dowling said the vote-by-mail system is not only safe, but it’s also much more efficent and produces a higher voter turn-out.

Fischer agreed.

“Our turnout was better this year (the first year all precincts were by-mail) than any we had. I am sure it is the same for those who had absentee voters,” she said.

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