Tuesday’s primary during a pandemic is not your parents’ election. It’s a lot more like your great-grandfather’s experience during the 1918 Spanish flu.
Nebraska voters who haven’t already voted early will still head to their polling places, which state and local election officials say will be staffed and open. They’ll still stand in orderly lines, albeit farther apart.
They’ll tell a poll worker who they are. They’ll grab a ballot and return sleeve and get to vote. But a lot will look and feel different. Starting with the stickers — some counties are opting out.
Here’s what to expect if you’re going to vote or if you still need to return your mail-in ballot:
Where to vote
Nebraska polling places are largely open. Douglas County, home to Omaha, consolidated or moved a smattering of polling places across the city, although it made few changes in the eastern part of Omaha.
People who want to know where to vote Tuesday should check the Nebraska secretary of state’s website for polling places, www.votercheck.necvr.ne.gov/voterview.
Those without Internet access can call their county election commissioner, county clerk or the Secretary of State’s Office at 402-471-2555.
When to vote
Polling places in Nebraska are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central time, and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mountain time.
Before you go
Voters are not required to wear masks, but state and local election officials recommend it. The state will make masks available for voters who show up without them.
Public health officials recommend people wash their hands, use hand sanitizer if they have it, give people at least 6 feet of social distance and vote the way folks should shop: alone.
Poll workers will receive a safety kit when they arrive to open up their polling place, including an N95 mask, gloves, sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and a face shield, the state says.
They have been instructed to set up polling places to maximize social distancing of at least 6 feet, based on interviews and documents obtained by The World-Herald.
They’ve also been asked to wipe and disinfect every voter touch point between uses, from the sleeves that carry ballots to the booths where people vote, so voting could take extra time.
According to the state, county election commissioners and clerks have said they have enough workers to open and adequately staff the polls.
When you go
Voters should plan to give one another room in line, at least 6 feet. Poll workers will try to help them do so inside polling places by taping off distance markers on the ground.
Secretary of State Bob Evnen said voters should not expect long lines, because more than three-fourths of regular primary voters in Nebraska have requested ballots by mail.
“We anticipate that voting at the polls will be much lighter for this primary than in the past,” Evnen said, citing internal analysis that as few as 25,000 people might show up statewide.
In some counties, including Lancaster, folks will be asked to print their own name when they sign themselves in, to reduce the potential for close contact between poll workers and voters.
Voting booths will be placed at least 6 feet apart, the state says, and voters will get their own pens to keep rather than returning them for shared use.
A sticking point
Prepare yourself for one disappointment. Some counties have opted to skip the “I voted today” stickers this time to keep things moving.
Ballots by mail
If you’re reading this, it’s likely too late to put a Nebraska ballot in the mail. State law requires ballots be received by county election officials by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday.
Take your signed ballot to a county drop box by 8 p.m., Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse and Sarpy County Election Commissioner Michelle Andahl said.
Do not try to return a ballot requested by mail to your polling place, Kruse said. Poll workers cannot accept it, officials said. And don’t mail it too late. Your vote will not count.