The May 12 primary election will happen as planned, despite social distancing orders, but Seward County Clerk and Election Commissioner Sherry Schweitzer expects more people to vote early to avoid crowded polls.
“The governor and secretary of state decided it would be a polling place election,” Schweitzer said. “It was not a local decision.”
Though the polls will be open May 12, people have the option to mail in their votes instead—but they have to apply for a ballot first.
“For anybody who feels that they do not want to be out because of the coronavirus, or if they are worried about their health or wellbeing, I encourage people to use the early voting method to vote,” Schweitzer said.
How does early voting work?
Anyone wishing to vote early or by mail must first complete and return an early voting application.
The secretary of state's office began mailing applications for Nebraska's more than 300,000 voters last week, and they're being sent out alphabetically.
Schweitzer said Seward County voters should receive theirs by April 8.
“Everybody should have gotten an early voting application in the mail,” Schweitzer said.
The application must be filled out, signed and returned to the county clerk's office by May 1. It can be returned by mail, in the drop box outside the courthouse or by email, since the courthouse currently is closed because of the coronavirus.
“We have to see a signature. I want to impress upon people, you can't just type up an email,” Schweitzer said.
To return an application by email, fill the application out entirely, sign it, scan it into a computer and then attach it in an email to email@example.com.
To return an application by mail, fill it out, sign it and send it to Seward County Clerk, P.O. Box 190, Seward, NE 68434.
Or, drop your completed, signed application in the dropbox outside the courthouse at 529 Seward St. on the north side of the building. Applications can go in the box typically used for worn flag disposal, but Schweitzer said the secretary of state's office is providing a separate box that will be installed by the end of April.
Once the clerk receives the application, a ballot will be sent to the voter in the mail, typically within two or three days.
“We're getting a lot of requests, so it might take longer,” Schweitzer said.
As of March 31, the office had received almost 200 early voting applications.
“If you have submitted one already, you do not have to submit another one,” she said.
The county received its ballots from the printer and began mailing them out on March 31, so applicants who have not received theirs yet should get it in the next few days.
Early ballots must be returned to the clerk's office by 8 p.m. on election day, May 12.
People wishing to use the Express Vote (formerly the AutoMark) machine, can do so by appointment. The machine is available to anyone but is designed to give better access to those with disabilities. Call (402) 643-2883 to make an appointment.
People who are not feeling well should ask for help in applying for an early ballot to make sure their vote is still counted.
I want to vote at the polls
Voters who still wish to go to the polls on May 12 will have from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to do so.
Schweitzer encourages poll voters to maintain distance and be respectful of the poll workers, who will be extra cautious.
“Our poll workers will be provided with masks, wipes, sanitizer and gloves, and each voter will have their own pen,” Schweitzer said.
Those supplies are being provided by the secretary of state's office.
Schweitzer said Seward County is in need of poll workers for the primary. Anyone interested in becoming one should contact her office.
“If anyone would like to be a part of the Election Board, this is your opportunity to serve. You will be paid for your time and also helping your community,” Schweitzer said.
Be sure to register
The last day to register to vote in person is May 1, but since the courthouse is closed, new registrants will have to do so by mail or online. That deadline is April 24.
Visit https://www.nebraska.gov/apps-sos-voter-registration to register to vote. Those who register after early ballot applications have already been sent out will not receive one in the mail and will need to request one from the clerk's office.
Call the office at (402) 643-2883 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or for more information.