Stay Safe, Vote From Home: Quick Interview with Douglas County Election Commission on Voting By Mail in the May Primary

In this episode of Go Vote, Omaha, MaryLee Moulton talks with Brian Kruse and Chris Carithers about how the Douglas County Election Commission is working to make the May Primary safe during the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Find out more in our Guide to Voting by Mail in Douglas County, or by contacting the Douglas County Election Commission at 402-444-VOTE (8683).

Action Alert: LB 1106

ALL MEMBERS-CALL TO ACTION! LB 1106 

ACTION ALERT: Earlier in the legislative session LB974 was introduced as a property relief tax bill. The statement of intent can be found on the Nebraska Legislature’s website under bill search. LB 974 was a proposal developed by the Revenue Committee chaired by Senator Lou Ann Linehan. It was not supported by any of the state education lobby and did not receive unanimous support for advancement to General File. 

The bill was debated on general file for three hours without a vote taken. Under the rules for debate a bill that has been debated for three hours and not voted on cannot be placed back on the agenda unless the sponsoring Senator can guarantee to the speaker that they have 33 votes to break cloture. 

This week the Revenue Committee advanced LB1106 which was originally written as a bill to clean up language in the state sales tax statutes. LB 974 was amended into LB1106 with some minor changes. Again, the committee did not unanimously agree on advancing LB 1106. 

Some minor changes were made to the bill, but it still will be problematic for Nebraskas public-school funding if it is passed. 

  • LB 1106 provides $520 million for state aid for public K-12 schools over the next three years. There are concerns regarding whether the state can sustain that level of funding given the ups and downs of state tax revenue and the potential Covid 19 pandemic. Historically, state funding has been reduced when revenues decrease or there is an emergency. This happened during the last economic recession. 
  • The plan reduces option enrollment aid which is sent to a school district when a student enrolls in that district as an option to the district in which the student resides. Currently $10,000 per student is sent to the option district. LB 1106 drops it to $8000 per year in the second year of enrollment and $6730 in year three. This is a burden for school districts with a high number of option students. 
  • The proposed budget lid on school spending drops from 2.5% to 2% under 1106. 
  • LB 1106 cuts in half the special building fund levy over a four-year period, from 12 cents to 6 cents. 
  • Foundation state aid would be sent to each district on a per-pupil basis beginning with $703 per student in year one and increasing to $2341 in year three. Remember that the state has historically cut state aid (foundation aid in 1106). 
  • The bill would reduce property tax rates as follows: Ag land would be reduced from 75% of actual value to 55%. Residential and commercial property rates would be reduced from 100% of actual value to 87%. 
  • Some transition aid is provided for one year based for school districts impacted by the proposed changes. 

Please contact your state senator ASAP and respectfully urge them to oppose LB 1106. The education community has concerns that this plan is not financially sustainable for the state and the hands of local boards of education are tied when state aid is reduced by the proposed lids. 

Guide to Voting by Mail in Douglas County

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, voting by mail is more important than ever for the May 12 primary election. Voting by mail is always an option in Nebraska elections, but this year, it’s an even better option as it can help protect yourself and others during this outbreak. LWVGO is working to especially promote voting by mail as a way to safely continue to participate in democracy and make sure your voice is heard in this important vote.

The county election commissions of Sarpy and Douglas counties have agreed to send postcards to registered voters. In the coming weeks, they will sending postcards to registered voters’ mailing addresses to encourage them to join the early/vote-by-mail list.

  • Voters already on the permanent early vote list will get a postcard.
  • Registered voters not already on the permanent or 2020 election early vote/vote-by-mail lists will get a postcard.

You must return the postcard to get on the early/vote-by-mail list. Send it back to the election commission at the address on the postcard (stamp required). Then the election commission will start sending out ballots on April 6.

Return the ballot by mail OR dropbox by May 8 to meet the election deadline of May 12.

If You Don’t Receive a Postcard, or If You’d Like to Get on the Vote By Mail List Today

You don’t have to wait for the postcard — registered voters (of all parties, including nonpartisan voters) can request a mail-in ballot for any reason.

The following is a guide to voting by mail in the May 12. 2020 statewide primary for voters in Douglas County, Nebraska. Make sure your voice is heard in this important election! And please share this information to your network of friends and neighbors.

Here are the general steps to voting by mail:

  1. Register to vote/make sure you’re registered. (Can be done online.)
  2. Request a mail-in ballot from the Douglas County Election Commission. (Can be done via mail, fax, email or in-person drop-off.)
  3. Fill out your ballot.
  4. Return your ballot. (Can be done by mail, drop-off at an election commission dropbox, or in-person drop-off.)

Read on to learn more.

Register to Vote

To vote in the 2020 primary election, voters must be registered. Get registered as soon as possible — your registration will need to be valid before requesting a mail-in ballot.

Eligibility to Register to Vote

To register to vote in Nebraska, you must be:

  1. A resident of Nebraska;
  2. A U.S. citizen;
  3. At least 18 years old by the time of the November election (November 3, 2020);
  4. Without a felony conviction OR “off paper” for two years following the completion of a sentence for a felony conviction.

Voter Registration Deadlines for the 2020 Primary

To vote in the 2020 primary election, you must be registered by no later than April 27, 2020 if registering by mail, online, at a community agency, library, DMV office, at a community event by deputy registrar. May 1, 2020 at 6 p.m. is the cutoff for walk-in registration at the Douglas County Election Commission office, 12220 W Center Road, Omaha.

Registering to Vote Online

Nebraskans with a Nebraska driver’s licence or state ID can register to vote online. Do so here: nebraska.gov/apps-sos-voter-registration.

You can also use the online voter registration to change your party affiliation and update your address, if needed. (Remember to do this before the April 27 deadline.)

Check Your Registration

Validate your registration online by looking yourself up on the Nebraska voter view website: votercheck.necvr.ne.gov/VoterView/RegistrantSearch.do.

Registration FAQ

What if I am registered at my parents address, but I am away at college?

If you are registered at your parent’s home, you may request an early ballot to vote by mail. Or you can register at your college address.

What if I live in a shelter and want to vote?

You can register to vote with the address of the shelter where you live.

What if I am homeless and have no address?

You can register and use your Election Commission as your address.

What if I am in a County Jail and want to vote?

Register to vote with the address of the jail at this website. You will vote by requesting an early vote by mail ballot. Misdemeanors or time in jail do not make citizens ineligible to vote. A convicted ex-felon can vote 2 years after completion of the entire sentence including probation/parole and post release supervision.

Request a Mail-In Ballot

Any Douglas County voter who was registered prior to the voter registration deadline is eligible to request an early voting ballot, either by mail, in person, or by agent. Find out more on the Douglas County Election Commission website: votedouglascounty.com/early_voting.aspx.

Requesting By Mail

To submit your request by mail, fill in the request form mailed to you and return that, or fill in the online request form, download that, then mail that request back to the Douglas County Election Commission.

Add a standard stamp to an envelope with your request and address the envelop to:

Douglas County Election Commission

12220 W Center Road

Omaha, NE

68144

Requesting By Email

Fill in the online request form, download that, then mail that request back to the Douglas County Election Commission at earlyvoting@votedouglascounty.com.

Deadline to Request a Ballot

To vote by mail in the 2020 primary, you must have your request for a mail-in ballot back to the Douglas County Election Commission by no later than May 1, 2o20.

Receiving Your Ballot

The Douglas County Election Commission will begin mailing out ballots on April 6, 2020. Ballots will will go out in gold-colored envelops that look like this:

Filling Out Your Ballot

Fill out your ballot as you would at your polling place! You can get more information from the nonpartisan voter-information site vote411.org.

Important: When you’re ready to return your ballot, put it in the return envelope that was mailed to you with the ballot. Seal the envelope and then make sure you sign the back. The vote will only be counted if the envelope is signed on the line at the bottom:

Return Your Ballot

You can return your completed ballot in its signed and sealed envelope to the Douglas County Election Commission office by mail, in person or by dropping it off at one of the dropbox locations.

Find the dropbox locations in the map below, or on the Election Commission website.

If dropping off, you don’t need a stamp.

Check Your Mail-In Ballot Status

You can check the status of your mail-in ballot on the voter check website: votercheck.necvr.ne.gov/VoterView/AbsenteeBallotSearch.do.

Conclusion

Make sure your voice is heard and vote no matter what — consider voting by mail this election! For more information, contact the Election Commission at 402-444-8683.

Action Alert: LB 1207 Redistricting Reform Bill

LB 1207 REDISTRICTING REFORM BILL TO BE DEBATED SOON! WRITE/CALL/EMAIL YOUR STATE SENATORS 

Hey, we need some help. As you may know, LWV-NE’s Redistricting Committee has been urging the Executive Committee to bring Senator John McCollister’s redistricting bill, LB 1207, to the floor for debate. A couple of weeks ago, we learned that wasn’t likely. Consequently, in an attempt to effect redistricting reform, we turned our attention to a petition drive to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November. The proposed amendment would support an independent commission of nine members to decide district lines. 

All that said, things changed late in the week when several civic organizations formed a new coalition. On March 5, that coalition, Nebraskans for Independent Redistricting (NIR), announced the petition drive to eliminate political gerrymandering in Nebraska. (More info.)

Nebraska’s constitution designates that the responsibility of drawing district lines is the duty of the legislature, so creating an independent commission would require an amendment to make that possible. (As this process goes forward, LWV-NE will be participating in meetings the week of March 9 to define our role in the petition process.) 

Shortly after the NIR’s announcement, an article appeared in the March 7th Lincoln Star Journal announcing that, surprisingly, Senator McCollister’s LB 1207 would be debated on the floor of the legislature. This bill would give lawmakers a chance to achieve redistricting reform as well as maintain control over drawing district lines as the constitution specifies. 

Voting to advance the bill with Sen. McCollister were Omaha Senators Ernie Chambers and Tony Vargas, Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz and Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward. Opposing the bill were Speaker Jim Scheer, Lincoln Sen. Mike Hilgers, and Sens. John Lowe of Kearney and Dan Hughes of Venango. (More info.)

So here we are – hoping to accomplish real reform one way or another. Please email, call or write your senator and urge support of LB 1207. Find your senator’s phone number and.or email address on the Unicameral website. Thanks! 

Why Redistricting Reform? Check out fairmapsne.org to learn more about redistricting and gerrymandering topics! 

  • Gerrymandering is undemocratic and goes against Nebraska’s traditions of nonpartisanship and fair play. 
  • When districts are gerrymandered, our elected representatives have been allowed to choose their voters instead of the voters choosing them. 
  • When Nebraskans are included in the process of drawing new election district maps, their fundamental right to choose who represents them is preserved. Voters feel like their vote makes a difference. 
  • When maps are drawn without political bias they represent minority groups more fairly. 

LWVGO Suspending In-Person Meetings & Voter Registrations

Due to concerns about the COVID-19 virus, the League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha is suspending all face-to-face meetings and voter-registration drives, effective immediately and lasting, unless otherwise posted, until March 31, 2020. We will update our members of any extension before the end of the month. Look for notifications of online opportunities to meet.

We encourage our members to request a vote by mail ballot at votedouglascounty.com/elections/2020/Primary/P20RequestByMail.pdf, and to share this link with others.

You can also encourage online voter registration at nebraska.gov/apps-sos-voter-registration.

If you have any questions, contact us via our website, via email or on Facebook.

We aren’t going away; we are just going online. Stay safe and keep washing your hands.

-LWVGO Board (board@lwvgo.org)

Action Alert: LR294, Resolution on Climate Change

LR 294, the resolution written by students at Prairie Hill Learning Center concerning human caused effects on climate, was heard by the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee on Feb. 20. There it sits yet!
 
“LR 294 is an official acknowledgement of scientific information declaring climate changes and predicting further changes and devastation in the climate and economy of Nebraska, particularly for the agricultural sector.
 
“LR 294 would mandate the State of Nebraska to create an action plan to combat the climate and ecological crisis  in process.” 
 
 (The full text of the resolution can be found on the Nebraska Legislature website.)
 
If your senator sits on the Natural Resources Committee or is one of the co-signers of LR 294, PLEASE contact them immediately and as a constituent of the senator, strongly urge that LR 294 be advanced to General File for full debate by the senate.
 
Natural Resources Committee:  Senators Albrecht, Bostelman, Geist, Gragert, Halloran, Hughes, Moser and Quick.
 
Co-signers of the resolution:  Kolowski (introducer), Bolz, Brandt, Cavanaugh, Chambers, Crawford, Hunt, McCollister, Morfeld, Pansing Brooks, Quick, and Wishart.
 
You can reach your senator by email or by calling the Capitol switchboard at 402 4721-2311 and asking for your senator.
 
Emphasize the urgency of the students’ concerns and YOUR concerns regarding our climate.

Action Alert: Contact Your Senator to Urge Support of LB1207

Redistricting bill LB1207 will go to the full Unicameral for debate. Read more at the Lincoln Journal-Star website.

LWVGO supports LB1207, the Redistricting Act, and urges all members to contact your state senator to urge them to vote for it. Find your senator’s contact information on the Unicameral website.