LINCOLN — A ruling is expected within the next 30 days on a complaint that some Douglas County residents were prevented from voting in the November presidential election because they did not provide a state-assigned voter identification number.
The issue involved voters who sought provisional ballots because their names or current addresses were for some reason missing from their precinct poll books. The law allows such voters to submit ballots in separate envelopes labeled with their name and address. The ballots are counted after the person is verified as a registered voter who did not cast a ballot at another polling place.
During a hearing last week, County Election Commissioner Dave Phipps said voters should not have been required to present the voter identification number to obtain a provisional ballot.
“It's not our policy to require voters to submit their serial identification number,” he said. “Poll workers do make mistakes.”
The complaint was filed by Nebraskans for Civic Reform, a nonpartisan election watchdog group.
Executive Director Adam Morfeld had testified that official observers with his group had seen voters leaving Douglas County polling places after they were unable to produce their voter identification number. Morfeld said he witnessed seven voters turned away at Evans Tower, a senior citizen housing complex at 3600 N. 24th St., after they were unable to produce a voter identification number. A poll worker told him that he had seen about 50 voters being turned away for similar reasons.
Hearing officer Robert Kinsey Jr. of Lincoln, appointed by Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale to conduct a hearing on the matter, said he would issue a recommendation within 30 days. The complaint was filed with the Secretary of State under the federal Help America Vote Act.
Morfeld said his goal was to bring attention to the alleged election misconduct and prevent it from being repeated.
Election observers said voters whose names did not appear in the poll book were given green, postcard-sized slips of paper instructing them to contact the Election Commission by phone or Internet to obtain their voter ID number, ward and precinct number, their ballot number and party affiliation, along with their address and polling place.
In a sworn statement, observer Megan Mikolajczyk, who observed voting at the Florence Towers at 5100 Florence Blvd., said she began noticing confused-looking voters leaving the polling place with green slips of paper in hand. One voter reported that a poll worker told him he needed to complete the information on the sheet before he could vote.
Morfeld said the Election Commission phone lines were busy on Election Day. Some voters, unable to get through, gave up and didn't vote.
Phipps said the forms were intended to make sure voters reported to the correct polling place. He said voters were not required to submit their voter identification numbers, which are assigned by the state to prevent duplication when voters move or otherwise change their registration. Election workers were mistaken if they told voters that, he said.
However, he added that voters did need to know their ballot numbers, so that they got the correct ballot for where they live. If voters submit the wrong ballot, it must be thrown out, Phipps said. Each voting precinct has multiple ballots to serve the various configurations of voting districts within that precinct
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