Several Nebraska counties planning switch to all-mail elections

A mail truck parks at the Hamilton County Courthouse on December 26, 2018 (NTV News)

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.

Populations are aging, and Wichmann says she has had to work the phone just to come up with the bare minimum they need to hold an election.

“It's harder because your younger people are working and we can't pay what they're making at their jobs,” Wichmann said.

Merrick County was one of the first in Nebraska to hold an entire election through the mail.

Whether or not it saves money remains to be seen.

Wichmann said, “It probably costs the county about the same, because we had to clean up their files, we had a lot of people that walked ballots back in rather than utilizing return postage, live and learn situation.”

She said the first year brings more expense, but she’s hoping the cost will be less in the future.

Election officials say voting by mail has its benefits, including better participation, with nearly 75 percent of Merrick County voters casting a ballot in the November general election.

“It was probably the best turnout we've ever had,” Wichmann said.

Four counties cast all their ballots by mail and another four have been approved for 2020.

Garden, Morrill, Dawes, and Merrick counties cast all ballots by mail in 2018, and 2020 will see the addition of Boone, Cedar, Dixon and Stanton.

Now Hamilton County may also join the list.

DeMers said they have had some elections by mail in rural Hamilton County, however voters in Hordville, Marquette, and Aurora have voted in person.

As for the recall election of Gregg Kremer, officials found some confusion with the timeline.

DeMers presented a resolution to the county board to hold an election on March 12, but commissioners said that would be 76 days away, when the law says an election must be held within 75 days.

The board voted to table the decision until their meeting on January 3.

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