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Election Commissioner foresees busy day

November 7, 2018

Platte County Election Commissioner Diane Olmer is anticipating a boost in voter participation during this year’s gubernatorial election as compared to 2014.

“Just looking at my numbers of early voters, I can tell that already,” Olmer said.

The polls of the general election will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. Among the 30 precincts, there are 27 polling locations throughout the county, including Ag Park in Columbus and Palestine Baptist Church in St. Edward. There will be at least five poll workers at each site.

“Nebraskans have registered in higher numbers than we have ever seen, which is especially impressive for a mid-term election,” Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale said in a release.

Gale announced on Monday that this year’s registered voter total of 1,219,644 beats out the previous record set during the 2016 Presidential Election. Because of that, Gale said in the release he anticipates voter turnout of 56 percent.

“There are many options for voters to cast their ballot, including the increasingly popular option of early voting,” Gale said. “Voters have the flexibility to cast ballots in person at their election office or by mail.”

Olmer said her office has issued a total of 1,817 absentee ballots, which are votes cast by someone who is unable or unwilling to attend the official polling station. Of that total, Olmer said she has yet to hear back from 149 registered voters, noting these numbers are not out of the ordinary.

“But it is busier than four years ago,” said Olmer, noting there were 1,543 absentee ballots issued during the 2014 General Election.

Results are generally finalized by midnight. Because of the predicted heavier turnout and two-piece ballots, Olmer said she predicts the final numbers coming later than usual.

“We have to stay until we are done counting,” Olmer said.

Despite the numbers, Olmer said her department strives to maintain the integrity of the election process by preventing people from voting twice and ensuring voters have their privacy while casting their ballots.

Olmer said there are many ways officials can prevent a person from voting twice, which is a Class IV felony. Individuals voting at the Platte County Election Commissioner’s office are required to fill out a form with information that will be put into a computer. If the same person tried voting again, the system wouldn’t accept their information because it’s already in the system. That indicates one vote has already been cast.

At voting poles, each individual has to sign a roster indicating that he or she has voted. Olmer said that only once in the past 22 years in Platte County has somebody successfully managed to submit ballots twice.

She advises community members to call her office at 402-563-4903 if they have any questions.

“Don’t assume that we can’t do anything for you,” she said. “We will try to do research and see if there’s any way that we can either allow you to register to vote, or allow you to vote.”

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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