Nebraskans Voting Early 2020
Thousands of Nebraskans are voting early for the upcoming election, and several counties have a higher percentage of early voters than others. Dixon, Boone and Cedar counties require all voters to mail in their ballot. Map by Libby Seline

About one in five Nebraskans is registered to vote early in the upcoming election. 

Data from the Secretary of State’s Office shows that about one-third of registered voters are voting early and thousands of ballots have already been sent to voters from Douglas to Scotts Bluff counties. Secretary of State Robert Evnen said the number of registered voters who decided to submit their ballot early increased for the May primary as Nebraskans took precautions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The office can’t know the portion of voters who are planning to vote early for the general election because Nebraskans still have time to register to vote. Still, the ratio of early voters to registered voters is expected to still be high for the general election but less than the May primary, according to Evnen.

“A lot of Nebraskans decided to vote early via the mail or dropbox because they didn’t feel comfortable going to the polls in the primary,” he said. “But I think — particularly our regular poll voters — are going to feel more confident in the general election.”

Nebraskans of all political parties have submitted a form to vote early. About 27% of Republicans and 41% of Democrats have filled out an early ballot form as of Oct. 5. 

Cedar, Dixon and Boone counties are set to have all voters mail in their ballot, and thus, have the highest percentage of early voting registrants.

About 71% of Harlan County voters and 61% of Wayne County voters are also registered to vote early. The majority of counties have less than 50% of its voters planning to submit an early ballot, but the numbers may change as more early voting applications come in. 

Behind the scenes, the secretary of state’s office must ensure voters have envelopes and ballots to vote. However, of the ballots sent, Evnen estimated that 15% are not counted.

“What happened to those 15%?” he said. “Did people get the ballot and decided it wasn’t such an interesting election so they just threw it away? Did people get a ballot and just put it in their pile of mail so that they forgot about it and then it was too late? Or did something else happen? We just don’t know.”

Each county has a dropbox so people could cast their vote and not worry about their ballot being lost in the mail. Still, the form needs to be filled out correctly. 

Evnen said all ballots should be in the mail by Oct. 27. 

“I’m not guaranteeing the performance of the post office, but that’s what they’ve told us,” he said. 

The number of people who will return ballots is expected to be higher for the general election compared to the primary, and election county commissioners across the state will continue to be busy until the election. Overall, though, Evnen said the office feels prepared. 

“We feel like we’re providing the support necessary for our county election officials to be prepared,” Evnen said. “There are always issues and difficulties that are going to come up but we feel like we’re in a good position to help our counties meet those challenges.”