Nebraska lawmaker speaks out on volunteer ballot collectors
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska lawmaker is concerned about the practice of ballot collection by third parties.
Volunteers have been stationed outside Millard Public Schools in Omaha to collect completed mail-in ballots for the levy override election ending Nov. 14. The vote involves an extra 9-cent property tax levy authority for the school board, the Omaha World-Herald reported .
Volunteer organizers said the effort is aimed at boosting turnout. They said they collect and turn in anyone’s ballot regardless of the person’s opinion on the override. Organizers said the effort is a matter of convenience in a time when people are less likely to possess stamps.
“We are doing it to increase civic engagement, to get the pulse of the community,” said Stacy Jolley, co-chair of Millard Citizens for Continued Excellence, a group in favor of the override. “We, of course, have no idea how people are voting when they hand us their ballot.”
Third-party ballot collection is legal in Nebraska, according to election commissioners in Douglas and Sarpy counties. But Sen. Lou Ann Linehan said she’s concerned about the effort and has “no doubt” legislation will be introduced to address it.
“Now, again, they’re not breaking any laws,” she said. “But just because it’s not illegal doesn’t make it right.”
A National Conference of State Legislatures report said at least 14 states have statutory limits on the collection and delivery of absentee or mail-in ballots by someone other than the voter. Officials from those states said they worry about potential fraud and a desire to secure the chain of custody of the ballots. But some of those laws have been challenged as voter suppression.
Election officials said voters should give ballots only to someone they trust. They also said that mail-in voters can check online to verify that the election office received their ballots.
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com