Primary election set for Tuesday

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Tuesday’s primary election in Hamilton County will be different in a lot of ways, with a huge increase in mail-in ballots and only one polling place available countywide, where extra precautions will be taken to keep voters and poll workers safe from the coronavirus.

Hamilton County Clerk and Election Commissioner Jill DeMers advised commissioners Monday that she is confident her staff is ready to go with the May 12 primary.
“Everything will be at the Farr Building, so there will be no voting at the Bremer Center, in Hordville or Marquette,” DeMers reported. “We will be disinfecting the Farr Building the day before and we will have masks and pens for all voters.”
In addition to the extra cleaning at the Farr Building, extra precautions will be taken in the way people come in, walk through, vote, and exit the building, making sure there is ample distance between everyone involved.
“There is a lot going on with getting the ballots ready for the Farr Building and all of the poll worker boxes,” she said. “They’ll each have a box they’ll keep those (sanitation) supplies and that’ll take a lot of time to get that ready, so we will be working on that this week.”
One of the main challenges statewide, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, is recruiting workers to volunteer at the polls.
“The Secretary of State’s Office did send out a letter to everyone 18 through 40 years of age and asked if they’d want to be a poll worker because they didn’t know if that was going to be a struggle for all the counties in Nebraska,” DeMers said. “It’s rough getting poll workers, but I did get a lot of those applications, so if there are some that I run across who won’t be able to or something comes up we’ll have those extra names.”
As for mail-in ballots, a procedure DeMers supports in hopes of eventually going to exclusively mail-in voting, she reported that 1,700 ballots were sent out, up from the average of 500.
“They can drop their ballots off until 8 o’clock on election night,” she explained. “They are not able to take it to the polling place, the Farr Building. They will need to drop it off at the ballot drop box” located on the east side of the courthouse.
“That’s exactly what we wanted,” she said of the increase in mail-in voting. “We wanted people to vote at home and also with the COVID-19 that’s just the most safe thing to do right now.”
Neighboring Clay and Merrick counties will utilize all main-in voting next week, which DeMers said will reduce the overall cost of those elections.
“There will be more cost to this election for the fact that we’re not all mail and the COVID-19, unfortunately,” she said.
Extra money was spent processing the mail-in applications, she noted, there was additional postage, plus another 500 postcards will be sent out this week to anyone who didn’t request a mail-in ballot explaining that they will need to vote at the fairgrounds.
DeMers confirmed that a mistake was made with the initial mailing in that Upper Big Blue Natural Resource District candidates were not listed. Those were later sent out as a supplemental ballot, at additional cost to the county.
Asked if this election will exceed the planned budget, DeMers said she didn’t think so.
“I am within budget because I was planning on three recalls that didn’t happen,” she said. “That is how I had extra money in the budget.”
Voters must either drop their mail-in ballot at the dropbox near the courthouse or vote at the fairgrounds by 8 p.m. Tuesday, when the polls will close. DeMers said results will be posted soon after at the courthouse, which will be closed to the public, but open to the media.
The Aurora News-Register will post results as they are posted via Twitter, and will publish a complete story on the newspaper’s website Wednesday morning.


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