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Nebraska's 2018 primary elections show more counties should adopt a vote-by-mail system, a nonpartisan voting rights group said Wednesday.

Civic Nebraska said a 24.3 percent statewide turnout in the May election is proof the state needs to do more to remove barriers to voting, said John Cartier, the organization's voting rights director.

With more than three-fourths of Nebraska's eligible voters forgoing casting a ballot, Cartier said the "current Tuesday-centered voter model is not very conducive to voting, with people now working multiple jobs and with lifestyles changing."

Civic Nebraska pointed to the success of Garden County, where turnout in the May election neared 59 percent after the western Nebraska county went to an all-mail election this year.

Nebraska law allows counties with populations of 10,000 or fewer people to conduct all-mail elections with the approval of the secretary of state.

More than 100 special bond-issue elections have been conducted by mail since the population lid was lifted in 2009, and Garden County has blazed a trail for roughly two-thirds of Nebraska's counties that fit the parameters.

Other counties have already submitted requests to Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale to move to a vote-by-mail system for future elections.

Civic Nebraska said it will back legislation in 2019 that ups the 10,000-person population threshold for other counties wishing to conduct all-mail elections, which would also reduce the costs of training more than 8,000 poll workers statewide.

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Civic Nebraska's "Observation Report of 2018 Primary Election" also noted the May elections "were overwhelmingly well-run, efficient and fair" with a few exceptions:

* Some voters reported receiving an incorrect or partial ballot. The report cites an instance in Douglas County where a registered nonpartisan voter received a ballot without an option to cast a vote in the University of Nebraska Board of Regents race for their district.

* About one-quarter of the complaints fielded by Civic Nebraska related to electioneering at polling places, particularly in Lincoln, where candidate yard signs were placed inside the 200-foot limit outlined in state law.

* Several voters also complained that their party registration had been changed without their knowledge or consent. The report says most of the voters had "simply forgotten that they signed the paperwork authorizing the change. Outside of usual human error, it does not appear there were any defects in election software."

Civic Nebraska has partnered with the Lawyer's Committee, the ACLU and Common Cause Nebraska to run a statewide nonpartisan election observation program since 2012.

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On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.


Higher education reporter

Chris Dunker covers higher education, state government and the intersection of both.

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